(Google Play Streaming, December 2019) Exhilarating and revelatory, Free Solo is about one man and one mission: rock climber Alex Honnold and his 2017 quest to climb Yellowstone’s El Capitan 900-meter-high mountain with his bare hands—no rope, no safety net. It sounds crazy enough and the film not only underscores what fantastic feat of human strength this is, but also demonstrates, through painful practice runs, how dangerous some specific moments of the endeavour can be. Beyond the climb, we also get a glimpse at Honnold himself—his geeky personality, his budding relationship with a girlfriend understandably concerned for his life (as other alpinists die during the making of the feature) and his drive to go against the mountain itself. While the footage captured for the documentary is magnificent (drones have really opened the possibilities offered to low-budget filmmakers, although the best footage is captured by fellow climbers tethered not too far away), there is an added complication in having the cameramen discuss their concerns that their very presence may cause additional problems for Honnold. It’s the portrait of an outsized ambition, certainly, but also a gradual change in character for the man at the centre of the documentary—at one point, he begins and abandons a climb, feeling that it’s not the right time. (It’s a move that earns the strong approval of everyone else, some of them saying that this reinforced their belief in his sense of safety.) The last twenty minutes of the film detail the successful ascent, we viewers having been adequately prepared for the dangerous steps of the process, with our relief mirroring the one of Honnold’s companions. A neatly wrapped package making a difficult sport accessible to lay viewers, Free Solo deservedly earned an Oscar for best feature documentary, and it has the white-knuckle thrills to show why.