Free Solo Nabbed an Oscars Nom and Deserves the Win

We don’t normally do much reporting on entertainment news here at The Adventure Blog, but when a major climbing film gets an Oscar nomination it’s worth commenting on. Earlier in the week, Free Solo, the epic documentary about Alex Honnold’s 2017 ascent of El Capitan without ropes, found itself amongst the finalist in the “Best Documentary Film” category. This is a historic moment for adventure filmmakers, as the films that we’ve known and loved for quite some time, finally get some mainstream attention.

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Free Solo is about as gripping and entertaining as just about any feature length, scripted film in the Oscar’s line-up this year. Even though we already know the outcome going in, it is still amazing to watch Honnold train, plan, and prepare for this utterly unfathomable climb. It also gives us a look into his personal life, allowing us to get to know the climber on a more personal level.

The film is going up against four other excellent documentaries that have earned nominations as well. The list includes: Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross), Minding the Gap (Bing Liu), Of Fathers and Sons (Talal Derki), and RBG (Betsy West, Julie Cohen). Each of those films comes highly recommended and have impressed critics with their deft storytelling and fantastic filmmaking. As usual, the competition will be tough and it is hard to say which one will come out on top.

I know that I’m completely biased in my opinion, but for me Free Solo is head and shoulders above any of those other docs on the list. Just the sheer logistics of making a documentary about a climb up El Capitan goes beyond the scope of most other productions. But this is more than just a climbing film, as it dives deep into what drives a guy like Alex Honnold to push himself on tough climbs. Viewers will learn that for Alex, this wasn’t an extreme adventure at all and that he had the utmost confidence in his abilities, having scouted every section of the route ahead of time. For us though, it is a dizzying height that is almost incomprehensible, adding a level of danger that would send most of us back down the face after the first 5 meters.

The winners for the 2019 Academy Awards (aka the Oscars) will be announced on Sunday, February 24. On that evening, we’ll know whether or not Free Solo will take home the statue or if it will become just another also-ran. It will be a big night for adventure filmmakers everywhere however, as for once their work will get some mainstream exposure to an audience that normally doesn’t see what they’re up to. Free Solo deserves all the accolades that it gets, and in my opinion it deserves the Oscar win. But there are dozens of other amazing adventure filmmakers out there doing fantastic work too and a win for Chin and Vasarhelyi would be a significant breakthrough for others as well.

Let’s hope that happens.

Kraig Becker