An elite rock climber conquers the unconquerable.
“Learning to do something hard when the stakes are high is essential to being alive,” said Peter Vigneron in Outside. “Alex Honnold has carried that idea to its extreme and beautiful limit.” Last year, the free-solo rock climber ascended El Capitan—the 3,200-foot sheer granite monolith in Yosemite National Park—without gear of any kind. Honnold prepared obsessively for months, and the “gorgeous, dramatic” movie that captures the entire bid ranks as “one of the best outdoor-sports documentaries of all time.” That’s partly because of the ethical dilemma it raises: “If Honnold dies, how responsible are the filmmakers, his friends, and his audience?” The daredevil “gives us plenty of opportunities to turn our heads away,” such as when he dangles by one thumb, said Jeannette Catsoulis in The New York Times. But the movie is more than its “heart-stopping camera angles and vertigo-inducing vistas.” Free Solo’s biggest surprise is its “brittlely funny” portrait of Honnold as a person, particularly as a romantic partner, said Alan Scherstuhl in LA Weekly. “To watch Honnold think through each ledge can stop the heart; to watch him navigate human emotion might melt it.”
Neal Preston, Eric Zachanowich, National Geographic ■