Free Solo

This should be a really boring movie. The outcome is a foregone conclusion: we know what’s going to happen; we know he’s going to survive the climb. It happened in the past, and it made big headlines. And yet, I was sweating bullets the entire time I watched him go up El Capitain, with no ropes, and no margin for error. My palms were basically dripping with sweat… it is so incredibly tense to watch this kind of feat, in full knowledge that it is in no way fake, and that his life is on the (lack of) line the entire time. Much of this stress is brought about by watching what his friends and fellow climbers, who were there to document the achievement on camera, lived through as they watched the drama unfold real-time.

As is discussed in scenes where Alex undergoes studies in an MRI machine, he basically has a tiny amygdala, leading to low levels of anxiety/stress in these situations. And a huge pair of balls.


Steve Carrell in a dramatic role knocks this out of the park. Too many people will say that the role is all about the prosthetic schnoz, but his performance outshines the very good work also put in by both Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

There is nothing unnecessary here, no frills or extras. The story unfolds slowly, and we are given time to understand the characters and their motivations. Not everything is shown to the viewer directly; it’s up to us to watch closely and draw inferences and conclusions. Strange, engrossing, satisfying.

Rising from Ashes

Jonathan Boyer comes off looking pretty good in this. In the most unlikely of places – post-genocide Rwanda – redemption rolls in on two wheels. It’s almost a fairy tale: The disgraced cyclist has a chance to make good, his underdog protégé cyclist almost gets the gold medal, cycling teaches life lessons… it would seem corny if it were fiction, but in that case he probably would’ve won the Olympic race…

The Armstrong Lie

Lance has had so many chances to make this right. Or at least to apologize, and make us think that maybe he’s just human, after all. But he keeps blowing it. The overwhelming sentiment one is left with at the end of this documentary is the feeling that Armstrong really has not fully repented, that he still believes somewhere deep inside that he is the one who has been wronged in all of this.

Fascinating and infuriating and ultimately frustrating. It almost makes me want to take some PEDs to see if then I could win some bike races…

Riding the Divide

This is not my kind of bike ride. And also not my kind of documentary. By which I mean that it is not very exciting, it just sort of gets the job done. It’s not very slick. I also hated the music.

But so why did I watch it? Inherently interesting subject matter, of the underground race on mountain bikes along the length of the Continental Divide, from Banff, Canada down to the Mexican border in New Mexico. What kind of rider does this ride? What kind of bike do they ride? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How do they manage, what is their mental state after a day, after 7 days, after 21 days? Not to mention their physical state…

This is a ride that my brother had intended to do, although I don’t know that he meant to enter the race, maybe just ride the route…