Climbing a 3,000-foot wall of granite with ropes and a harness is stomach-churning to most.
For one of rock climbing’s greatest, Alex Honnold, gear is an unnecessary accessory.
Directed and filmed by the duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Minnesota-native Jimmy Chin, "Free Solo" documents Honnold's tireless pursuit to be the first to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park using only his arms, legs and entrenched passion.
As the sun rises in Yosemite, viewers are immediately roped in for an incredible adventure.
Living the ever-archetypal dirtbag life, Honnold eats, sleeps and lives out of his white utility van. This is made clear not for novelty, but for emphasis that he lives solely to climb.
It’s important to remember that "Free Solo" is a National Geographic film. Awe inspiring angles, sweeping shots and unfathomable scenery construct the backdrop.
The only people capable of shooting such a film are world class climbers themselves. This is made clear by Honnold throughout the film. Being a naturally introverted person, the Spider-Man-in-the-flesh explains that filming free soloing is rather taboo in almost every instance.
With appearances by Peter Croft, one of free soloing's golden children, viewers begin to understand why "Free Solo" is so groundbreaking. With well over 50 free solos under his harness (or lack thereof), Croft has never been willing to let the media in on his climbs.
Honnold, unlike Croft, decides to open up for this rare feat.
Enter Sanni McCandless: amateur climber, skilled people person and polar opposite of Honnold (her significant other).
McCandless lets viewers in on the story — whether they have climbed forearm-bursting walls or never touched a bouldering problem in their life. McCandless pushes "Free Solo" from a climbing junkie's ecstasy into a world-class documentary.
Following his climb through human relationships, Honnold's dynamic with others clearly shifts throughout the film. Honnold, who first comes off as an iron-fingered robot, transforms into a relatable human being.
It's with this sort of personal storytelling that "Free Solo" transcends adventure sport.
Soul-tingling dedication to a passion is part of everyone’s life at some point. Whether it be achieving the impossible or getting the exact grade on a test to get you that A — who’s to say those aren’t synonymous — completion of goals is personal nirvana, if only for a few short moments.
"Free Solo" shows its viewers that with absolute dedication and reality-bending tenacity, anything really is possible — something that, we think, no other film has truly done before to this magnitude.
After growing up a serious introvert, Honnold re-defines what it means to be put yourself “out there." Starting a charity, catalyzing dreams through personal passion and reaching incredible heights are all feats of Honnold’s career, which is roped up in the film's most notable line.
“No one does anything great by staying put and being comfortable,” Honnold says.
Everyone has incredible dreams and aspirations they imagine conquering — it’s time to scale them.