Coming to theatres today, Friday, September 14:
THE DAWN WALL
Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer
SXSW, Banff Mountain, Mountainfilm, Melbourne, Greenwich
Two free climbers attempt to scale a seemingly unscalable rock face.
Named for the section of Yosemite’s El Capitan sheer rock face that captures the first light of the day, Lowell and Mortimer’s appealing film chronicles the 2015 effort of climbing partners Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson to ascend the granite monolith. The pair are free climbers, only using ropes as supports in case they slip. El Capitan has long been declared an impossible goal for free climbers, but Caldwell – whose background contains a few surprises – has been wanting to conquer it for a decade. The well-shot film is its most engaging and even thrilling as it shadows the two men for the nineteen days of their attempt, witnessing the punishing lengths they take to complete sections of the course, and celebrating their dedication and teamwork. The filmmakers struggle with pacing, however, interrupting the flow of their climb with sometime superfluous interviews apparently meant to inject more human interest long after it’s really needed, as well as with structure. Given the worldwide media attention the pair received, it’s a strange decision to have the entire narrative hinge on the foregone conclusion of their climb, only to abruptly end with very little reflection from the men afterward.