"Riveting, Intense, Rock Climbing Documentary"
What You Need To Know:
FREE SOLO has viewers sweating as Alex ascends El Capitan. Nothing keeps him from death except perfection. Every part of FREE SOLO is riveting. That makes for an extremely intense time at the movies. FREE SOLO also has brief strong foul language and scenes showing that Alex lives with his girlfriend. Finally, Alex’s views on life and death are Romantic, with humanist elements that don’t acknowledge God or an afterlife. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children and other sensitive viewers. FREE SOLO is not for the faint of heart.
FREE SOLO follows the wild adventures of Alex Honnold, a 33-year-old man who has had the joy of turning something that he enjoyed doing as a child, into a successful, albeit extremely dangerous, career path. Alex is a “free soloer,” a term used to describe rock climbers who ascend walls without any type of safety gear or ropes to keep them from plummeting to their death at one bad foot grip or slip. He has successfully soloed up many summits and even wrote a book about his adventures called ALONE ON THE WALL. After these many achievements, he sets his sights on what he considers to be his greatest challenge: free soloing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. This summit is the highest he’s attempted at 3,000 feet.
Knowing that this will be a huge challenge, Alex is assisted by Tommy Caldwell, one of his rock-climbing childhood heroes, who has done the climb (with ropes) successfully. Although he wishes Alex would not attempt to free solo this summit, Tommy feels that if he doesn’t coach him, and he’s unsuccessful, that he would have to live with the regret, knowing that maybe he could have helped him. Alex decides to follow the route that Tommy previously did years before, and they begin to practice. Day after day, Alex dons the safety ropes and attempts the climb. This wall is like something he has never encountered before, and he falls time and time again.
In the midst of his training, Alex decides to go climbing with his girlfriend Sanni. However, Sanni is not at all as experienced as Alex is, and neglects to check the end of the rope, causing Alex to fall, injuring his back. Not long after this, they’re climbing again, and he falls yet again, hurting his ankle. He begins to have second thoughts about his girlfriend, after not having an accident in 7 years, and then falling twice in the few months with her. He’s worried about his focus and knows that he has to be in the right mindset to do this climb.
In the fall, Alex decides to go for the climb. He wakes up at 3:30 in the morning and makes his way to El Capitan, followed by an anxious, but eager film crew. After getting about a quarter of the way up, he calls it. He knows that his mind isn’t in the right place, and he feels distracted by all the people and cameras watching him. He has always done his climbs alone, not even telling anyone what he is attempting. He takes a much-needed mental break and returns in the spring for another go.
Watching Alex ascend thousands of feet into the air on a practically flat, sheer rock without any protection or insurance is cringe worthy. The intensity of the subject matter doesn’t even need to be amplified by any movie-making effects, and it isn’t. Sweaty palms and long breath holds are the beginning to what the viewer will experience when viewing this documentary. Covering many aspects of his life, this movie is entertaining from beginning to end, providing a constant whirlwind of emotions.
FREE SOLO has a primarily Romantic worldview. Alex disregards the desires of any of the people who love him in order to pursue his own ambitions. His views on risk and death are very matter-of-fact and don’t acknowledge any type of higher power or afterlife. This movie contains a relatively small amount of questionable content, with a couple examples of brief, but strong language, implied fornication and examples of family dysfunction. However, the subject matter can be difficult to handle for viewers sensitive to highly intense movies or who might have a fear of heights. For these reasons, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children and other sensitive viewers. FREE SOLO is not for the faint of heart.