Review: The Alpinist
If you enjoyed or rather had the stomach for the incredibly terrifying mountain climbing documentary Free Solo, then chances are you are going to want to check out The Alpinist. For most of us, Marc-André Leclerc is the most extraordinary athlete that we don't know anything about. This 23-year-old mountain climber, at the time of filming, uses no rope or major climbing equipment. Much like Alex Honnold who was the subject of Free Solo, this type of climber makes for a fascinating subject. But where Free Solo struggled to find an inroad to understand its subject, Leclerc is easier to get.
One of the main differences between these two amazing climbers is that Leclerc in no way chases the spotlight. In fact, midway through the making of The Alpinist he disappears and has to be coaxed back into allowing his feats of daring to be filmed. He climbs for himself. It is the only way he can "quiet the squirrel brain" that makes normal life difficult. While it can be difficult to share Leclerc's passion for such a dangerous activity, you can relate to the man as he is doing something that is the only peace and joy he genuinely feels in a pursuit. Leclerc is also a more open person as seen with his relationship with partner Brette Harrington and his mother.
Filmmakers Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen film his climbs with the use of drones and on-site footage aided by climbers. The results are stunning. Leclerc not only likes to climb solo and free of equipment but also on ice and snow. His climbs are legendary for their degree of difficulty, often combining snow, rock, and ice in perilous conditions. Leclerc's climbing is calm and controlled though and you see just in the way he moves that this is a man at peace and fully engaged in the present moment.
The film builds to his climb up Patagonia's Torre Egger, often considered the most difficult peak in the Americas. His ascent would be the first free solo ever. However, due to Leclerc's introverted personality, he films most of it himself. This certainly causes the film to suffer a bit from a lack of amazing footage. We are told about the climb more than we actually see it. The filmmakers still do a great job of conveying the feat and how big of an achievement it is. The film moves into a moving tribute in its third act to a man whose life celebrated alpinism and nature with every climb.