Last September, we declared Free Solo to be the best climbing movie ever made. Now, it's on the verge of another prestigious achievement. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s film documenting climber Alex Honnold’s historic rope-free ascent of El Capitan's Freerider in Yosemite is the favorite to take home the statue for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards on Sunday night.
Free Solo follows Honnold as he prepares for the climb and deals with “the circus” of being the sport’s most recognizable figure, someone who’s been living mostly out of a van suddenly having a camera following his every move for months on end. It’s that insight into Honnold that forces the audience to confront bigger questions about life, death, and risk-taking and make this much more than just another climbing flick.
In an interview with Outside in September 2018, Vasarhelyi described the film as a story about “this kid who is so scared of talking to other people that it was easier for him to climb alone, with no ropes, than to ask for a partner. I feel like we all have something in our lives like that. It was really important to see Alex’s eyes before he did it. What did his eyes look like the morning he set off?”
That approach goes a long way toward explaining why Vasarhelyi and Chin have a good shot to be on stage together accepting the Oscar this weekend.
Watch It Online
If you haven’t seen the film, or just want to see it a second (or third) time, you can watch it online right now. It’s available for purchase on all the major streaming services, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play.
National Geographic, which funded and distributed the movie, will broadcast the film on its cable channel on Sunday, March 3. Check your local listings for times.
See It at the Theater
And if you can see it on the big screen, you definitely should. It’s still showing in theaters around the country, and it’s set to expand to even more movie houses after the Oscars.