I know, I know. Two extreme sport free solo climbing documentaries in a row. I can practically hear you saying “Lauren, get some variety.” But just leave me be, okay?! Myself and my wife latched onto this subject so quickly that we’re a tad obsessed now… but that may have changed since we watched this one. Not because it’s bad, but because the ending is exactly the opposite of what we were hoping for.
The Alpinist follows rock climber and alpinist Marc-Andre Leclerc, who was revered universally across climbing circles as one of the best to ever do it. Free Solo‘s very own Alex Honnold actually makes an appearance to testify to that, so you know he’s brilliant. Or brilliantly insane, at least. The difference between Leclerc and Honnold is that Honnold sticks almost exclusively to rock climbing, whereas Leclerc prefers to solo climb ice and snow rock formations. Ever the Canadian, eh? This documentary focuses on Leclerc’s ground-breaking solo ascent of Torre Egger in Patagonia, whilst also looking at his background and his determination to climb the world’s most dangerous frozen waterfalls and ice sculptures without a rope.
Just like my experience when watching Free Solo, my heart fell out of my butt several times whilst watching this… maybe more times, actually. Ice soloing is quite clearly even more dangerous than “regular” soloing, even to audiences who know little about it, so this was an alarming experience from start to finish. Yet another instance of a documentary being more toe-curling than any horror movie.
Unfortunately, The Alpinist felt less well-structured in comparison to the aforementioned Oscar winner. (I’m sorry, but it’s impossible not to compare the two.) In a way, this sporadically-paced, wild side of the film reflects the personality of leading man Marc-Andre Leclerc, but for the viewer, it’s not quite as focused as you want it to be and you can feel a little baffled about where it’s all going. Alongside this, although what Leclerc does on screen is super impressive, the filmmakers don’t manage to capture the landscape quite so spectacularly, so you never quite get the full impact of the intensity of his actions.
On the other hand, this guy is much more closed off than Alex Honnold, (which is saying something since Honnold isn’t exactly an open book either) probably due to how free-spirited he appears to be, so you can’t exactly blame the film crew for that. As a result though, it’s much more difficult to feel as invested in him. What you can feel however, is an abundance of awe; his skill, his mind frame, and his determination are all things that very few people have.
Then… comes the ending. Also known as one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever seen in a film. Though there was an air of sadness and impending doom looming throughout the entire feature, it will still hit you like a ton of bricks as everything comes crashing back to Earth. This is a reminder that even the most talented of men are not immortal.
Despite not being quite as “perfect” as Free Solo, it was an honour to learn the story of ‘The Alpinist’ and a privilege to witness.
The Alpinist is available to stream on Sky Documentaries in the UK.
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Costume & Set Design: n/a
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