Free Solo (2018)


Critic Consensus: Free Solo depicts athletic feats that many viewers will find beyond reason - and grounds the attempts in passions that are all but universal.


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From award-winning documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi ("MERU") and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin comes National Geographic Documentary Film's FREE SOLO, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world's most famous rock... the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park... without a rope. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold's climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death. Succeeding in this challenge, Honnold enters his story in the annals of human achievement. FREE SOLO is both an edge-of-your seat thriller and an inspiring portrait of an athlete who exceeded our current understanding of human physical and mental potential. The result is a triumph of the human spirit.

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Critic Reviews for Free Solo

All Critics (114) | Top Critics (23)

It's scary and exhilarating stuff.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Is it strange when the wholehearted pursuit of a singular and spectacular achievement inspires pity and fear more than awe?

Dec 20, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Free Solo is about getting dangerously close to the edge, where some people feel most alive. We get to experience that thrill secondhand, and that's enough.

Dec 6, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

This plays out with as much (or more) suspense than any conventional thriller as the cameras capture every step of Alex's ascent.

Nov 1, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Do you have vertigo? Get dizzy easily? No? Good. Then you're in for an amazing, exhilarating climb to the top.

Oct 22, 2018 | Full Review…

The tensions inherent in Honnold's singular life are many. "Free Solo" gives you just enough of that life on terra firma to make the heights truly dazzling.

Oct 18, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Free Solo


"That's the most magnificent crack on planet earth." This is said un-ironically near the beginning of the third act in the documentary, Free Solo. I have nothing to add to this and no point to make, but I was the only one who laughed out loud at this in the theater and wanted to share. Coalescing the ideas of an unattainable itch that pushes an individual's drive to the (literal) edge and that of the worth of attaining that itch Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's Free Solo presents this quandary of maximizing life in thrills rather than length. Our subject, Alex Honnold, feels no obligation to maximize his life and it is this unique outlook that intrigues us to Honnoldï¿ 1/2(TM)s journey as much as his ability to scale seemingly flat surfaces does. Most would look at what Honnold dreams of doing and weigh the risk versus the consequence and decide the consequence was not worth the risk (easily, I might add), but the high chance of death isnï¿ 1/2(TM)t as great a risk for Honnold as having to go through life knowing he never took this risk that would truly satisfy him. Chin and Vasarhelyi do as much as they can in exploring the psyche of their subject in the process disclosing there were no real emotional bonds formed in Honnoldï¿ 1/2(TM)s childhood, that his father was what might be diagnosed as autistic by todayï¿ 1/2(TM)s standards, and how this lack of affection built the Honnold that exists today. This is countered with Honnoldï¿ 1/2(TM)s first-hand accounts of his childhood which interestingly enough tend to conflict with his motherï¿ 1/2(TM)s perspective. There is no debating Honnoldï¿ 1/2(TM)s brain works differently than most, but it is the level of transparency and care between Honnold and Chin (who is heavily featured in the doc himself) that really hammers home the contrasting feelings of the pros and cons of having the aspiration to even attempt something like free soloing, much less succeeding at it. At twenty minutes short of two hours the film does feel a little sluggish in parts, but the last half hour in which we watch Honnold work to make it up the 3,000 foot granite face of Yosemite's El Capitan is one of the most thrilling sequences caught on film this year; there is no escaping the sweaty palms or shortness of breath. Everything about the sequence is absolutely nerve-wracking even if you know or are pretty sure you know the outcome. The musical score could have very easily gone in two completely different directions here and it would have been nice had the editors chosen to go with a few more wide shots so as to understand the breadth of the challenge, especially in this final sequence, but I understand why they save as much for a certain moment as well (even though they still didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t hold it long enough). As much as Honnold risks and is the center of attention here the documentary crew and cameramen are rock stars in their own right allowing the audience to kind of ï¿ 1/2getï¿ 1/2Â? why Honnold was so taken with this challenge, this need to conquer, by giving us a slight glimpse into the feelings one must experience when coming to the end of such a journey.

Philip Price
Philip Price

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