Is it strange when the wholehearted pursuit of a singular and spectacular achievement inspires pity and fear more than awe? Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold makes the case that you don’t have to be crazy to climb the 3000-foot sheer granite face of El Capitan without a rope, but it helps to have a certain...detachment from the ordinary human fear of death, and even perhaps the ordinary human love of life. And maybe other people as well. Honnold doesn’t come off as any sort of monster in the face of his devoted girlfriend’s distress at the prospect of his needless demise; the poor man just seems constitutionally unable to share her concern. The real moral struggle is reserved for the people manning the cameras: who wants to wind up putting a friend’s death on film? But man the cameras they do, to breathtaking (breath-holding?) effect. Even if you know the outcome, the film remains a fine character study, painted on an enormous canvas.
Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes