“Free Solo” Is a Must-Watch


Dina Jovin, Staff Writer

The Free Solo documentary, filmed in 2018 and released on Disney Plus, follows the journey of Alex Honnald as he embarks on a lifelong goal, which is to scale Yosemite’s 3200 El Capitan without a rope. Alex Honnold was 31 years old when he climbed the wall, making him the first climber to accomplish such an extraordinary feat of athleticism and human skill. The documentary was filmed by National Geographic, attributing to its quality and variety in the documentary’s shots and angles as he scales the wall. Additionally, the documentary was taken under the wing of Award-winning documentary filmmaker, E. Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin. To give some brief context as to who Alex Honnold is, he is a world-renowned climber, known for his ambition and fearlessness when climbing. He describes climbing as his passion and one of the anchors in his life, having been attracted to the sport from a very young age.

The film has pretty consistently been regarded as one of the greatest climbing films to date, however, there are some issues that could be deciphered. Firstly, one of my main criticisms of the film is the fact that Honnold himself did not seem too excited or eager to film it. From my impression, it seems like National Geographic saw this as a really amazing story to capitalize on, as Honnold expresses multiple times that the camera adds a whole different dimension to his experience. He shared how there is the very real and formidable possibility of him dying, and the thought of this happening as some of his closest friends film him adds another level of fear and pressure. Similarly, Honnold said that there’s a lot of value in being alone with the mountain, creating a level of intimacy between the two so he can feel more comfortable placing trust in both it and in himself. Despite all of these factors, Honnold ultimately agreed to this because it would be a once in a lifetime experience that he would like to have caught on film, especially of this caliber.

This push back from Honnold made me feel somewhat apprehensive about watching and enjoying the film. Apart from this, the quality, as well as Honnold’s relatability and personality was really refreshing and interesting to watch. I would definitely recommend this documentary for anyone who likes nature or even for anyone who just feels like they need to cleanse their mind and watch something mindless but still enjoyable. Again, the beauty in this film as it overlooks Yosemite, or as it focuses on the rock formations is very revitalizing, and may even leave you with a new perspective on extreme sports and the value of pursuing your passions and life goals.