Alex Honnold is an extraordinary athlete. You don't need to know a thing about rock-climbing, his passion and profession, to realise this. His skills on the rock face, captured by equally stunning camera work, are astounding.
He defies gravity as he clings to giant granite precipices striving for technical perfection, while also possessing the ability to clear his mind of fear as he climbs - a handy talent when the only alternative to success is often death.
This National Geographic documentary, filmed over two years, follows Honnold as he prepares for his most audacious challenge yet; to become the first person to free solo climb Yosemite's 3000ft high El Capitan Wall. And yes, free solo means what you imagine - climbing without ropes or safety gear.
El Capitan is regarded as the greatest challenge in rock climbing. You could google to see if Honnold makes it, but knowing the outcome won't diminish the impact of his story; just watching him train for, let alone attempt, El Capitan is excruciating and absolutely thrilling.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
This isn't just a sport story, it's a drama about man verses dramatic landscape, beautifully captured by adventurer, mountaineer, and photographer Jimmy Chin. Chin and his crew put themselves in precarious positions to get their footage and wrestle with the moral question of whether they should be filming the attempt. Do they want to film their friend potentially die? Will being there effect Honnold's concentration and the success of his attempt?
While to some the footage of Honnold in action will be the appeal here, for others, what makes someone put their life on the line for their job will be the attraction. A scan of Honnold's brain reveals he needs more than normal stimuli to respond to fear and pleasure – which goes someway to explaining how he has the nerve to achieve the things he has. However, he's an engaging and fascinating subject; complex, honest, and funny.
This is the kind of film you want teenagers to watch for its 'nothing is impossible' message – safe in the knowledge the footage is so terrifying there is little chance they will take up free soloing themselves.
Cast: Alex Honnold
Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Running Time: 97 mins
Verdict: An amazing feat attempted by a fascinating guy.