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Movie Review: THE ALPINIST

This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . THE ALPINIST! (September 24, 2021)


If you thought that Alex Honnold from the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary FREE SOLO was the biggest daredevil you’ve ever seen, then just wait until you watch the new documentary THE ALPINIST, currently screening at Red River.

The story of Marc-André Leclerc, a Canadian rock climber and alpinist with similar aspirations to Alex Honnold, this well-crafted documentary explores what it means to be a daredevil and to live your life doing what makes you happy.

If you saw FREE SOLO and feel like you don’t need to see another film like it, I’m here to tell you that THE ALPINIST focuses on an entirely different story and person with its own unique message.

Prior to seeing these two films, I had little to no understanding of the climbing world. Sure, I’d heard about people who enjoy climbing and seen the indoor rock wall at various gyms and athletic facilities take off with great enthusiasm in the mid 2000s. But to actually see someone completely get in the zone of climbing a major mountain with no protection was unimaginable to me.

Just watching the sheer daringness of Marc-André summit some of the world’s hardest, most dangerous, and highest peaks is thrilling. When coupled with the artistry of the filmmaking, which follows him in the moment and highlights documentary work at its finest, the story is undoubtedly one to remember.

Where THE ALPINIST differs most from FREE SOLO is in how it creates a real story out of Marc-André and his zest for life. This gives it a real leg up compared to the latter documentary and helps keep you glued to the screen for the length of the movie. The filmmakers of THE ALPINIST do an incredible job of chatting with Marc-André in real time and seeing how he operates. They focus on what makes him so daring and why he has an unending desire to do what he does.

Of particular interest to me was how close friends and relatives described Marc-André’s personality as that of a restless individual. Knowing that he had such a hard time sitting still and being anywhere but the outdoors, it makes sense why he picked climbing as an early hobby and how it eventually became a way of life for him in his early 20s. 

The message of following one’s passion remains the crux of this piece. Despite the danger that a climber such as Marc-André encounters, it is clear that all of those around him realize the need he has for this. That he would be incomplete without it. The film’s focus on his own personality is why you ultimately can understand him so well. Despite the head-scratching moments and the questioning of why anyone would ever take that much risk, it is clear that Marc-André needs climbing to function and gets more out of it than anything else in life.

This film paints a clear picture of an amazing young person’s audacity and what makes him stand out among the community of climbers. It takes the sport to a whole new level and dives much deeper into the personal side than FREE SOLO, which lacked that connection with the individual. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and walk away realizing the importance of chasing your dreams, no matter how challenging or risky they can sometimes be.


Stay tuned for Volume XX, which will appear sometime near mid-October.


Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!

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