When you watch ‘Solo – A Star Wars Story’ there’s a certain lack of jeopardy surrounding the main character, with the viewer watching safe in the knowledge that Han makes it out of his escapades alive, and will go on to star in sequels and deliver all them brilliant lines. In spite of naming similarities though, ‘Free Solo’, starring Alex Honnold, is a completely different kettle of fish.
Yes, the viewing audience for Free Solo can say “I’ve seen interviews with Alex after El Cap, so I know he doesn’t plummet to his death”, but faced with the pant-wettingly terrifying reality of a man climbing 2,307 feet of Yosemite’s most revered rockface (without ropes) is enough to make you question whether the climber has in fact been replaced by a very convincing 3D hologram for the last 16 months in some kind of twisted PR stunt.
Of course – pending review by a panel of conspiracy theorists – we’re fairly sure that that’s not the case. But the fact still stands that you can go in assured of the ending of this film – and still come out with sweaty palms, feeling like you too have made some kind of gargantuan lifetime achievement. Spoiler warnings be damned. It’s the enthralling moment-to-moment tension in this one that gets you.
Free Solo is a breathtakingly impressive climbing documentary. But it also serves as an excellent character study of the man himself, and honestly illustrates the difficulties of filming and documenting a man driven by perfecting the art of free solo climbing. Where does the moral benchmark lie if the star of the show loses his life in the name of good film-making? That’s a question tackled head on by this film.