This is not a review of "The Dawn Wall" DVD as such but just potentially useful information for buyers of the German version, "Durch die Wand". For English speakers not wanting to fork out for the overpriced English version, the (current) German version has a German (voiced-over) audio option and also the original English audio, so you can watch the "main feature" entirely in English without German subtitles, etc. The bonus material is anyhow entirely in English without any option for German voice-over and without (at least by default) German subtitles. So you can save yourself about 1/2 the cost of the English version of the DVD and use the other 1/2 to buy "Free Solo" as well! (As for the content itself, I am in awe of these guys and the DVD is fantastic.)
The first time I came across Tommy Caldwell was in the film ' Free Solo' where he loses his composure and cries about his worries over his friend Alex Honnold's rope-less free solo climb of El Capitan.
I was impressed because I'd never seen that level of emotion from a young climber before - I'd seen the grand master Conrad Anker get upset reflecting over the actual death of close friends in the film Meru - but not at the possibility of harm occurring beforehand.
Like 'Free Solo', The Dawn Wall (the so called piece of El Capitan that captures the early rising sun in the Yosemite Valley) is generous with the Valley itself, affording the viewer wonderful vistas in all sorts of weather. It is easy to see why many call this the most beautiful valley in the world but there are others even in the UK where I live and elsewhere I am sure. But, hey - Yosemite is really beautiful - no doubt.
Anyhow, the film takes you over Tommy's life and development as a climber (and a human being). It comes across that Tommy was quite a sensitive mild mannered child when young - a late developer educationally and physically - who had input from a very robust but kindly Dad who got him into climbing. The climbing seems to have brought out other attributes of this unassuming, self aware, empathetic young bloke who I had never heard of until now.
So, there are two distinct sides to this fellow: he still undoubtedly has a sensitive needy AND giving side, tempered with a physical and mental hardness that he reserves for the challenges he sets himself on the mountains. It really is a very interesting mix. The mental hardness is also evidenced during a harrowing experience abroad which is mentioned early on in the film.
As the result of a relationship breakdown that hits him very hard, Tommy embarks on a new route on the 'Dawn Wall' -he starts pre-planning the route in preparation for an assault to the top. He also brings along and mentors a bouldering phenomenon called Kevin Jorgeson - someone more used to 30 feet high climbing than 3,000 ft - as he realises that he cannot do the climb alone. By the time the assault starts, Tommy has a new girl and a child of his own. I get the impression that Tommy will be a great Dad.
The film intersperses past and 'present' very well because Tommy seems like someone who is naturally reflective. He is aware of his needs but also of other peoples.
As the tale unfolds, we get to see this reflective character even more. At one point, Kevin cannot seem to hack Pitch 15 'The Traverse'. The climb is held back. Defeated, Kevin then tries to just support Tommy up the rest of the route. Tommy gets further up but then decides things do not feel right and that he is on the Dawn Wall to succeed with a partner and goes back down and get his partner through the Traverse so that they can continue up together as a team.
Jorgeson eventually does it, and then even goes on to complete moves ('The Dyno' for example ) that even defeat Tommy. All of this is dealt with fairly and squarely by the film. This is not just a Tommy Caldwell film. It's about those around him too.
Having seen 'Meru' and how Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker dealt with Renan Osturk's condition, Dawn Wall goes on to prove that climbing is more than just a selfish, self centred sport. It is about team work and support and shared goals and values. And also, about doing the right thing based on those attributes.
When it comes to mountains and rock faces, Caldwell is as hard as nails and he will not be denied. But when it comes to fellow human beings, Tommy Caldwell is a big softie in my opinion who has the balance right.
The world needs more Tommy Caldwells in my opinion.
An inspiring and thought-provoking film, wonderfully filmed.
A very well balanced documentary, not too much on the back story (and what a backstory it was!!) but just enough to put the climb itself into even better context and to illustrate how much the climb meant to Caldwell in particular. Also, it showed not just a technically brilliant climb, but more importantly how the style of the climb elevated it even further up the pantheon of climbing greats. I refer specifically to the fact that Caldwell could have dropped Jorgenson when he was having difficulties cracking pitch 15 but instead said "together or not at all" which I think gives you a measure of the man. Five stars all round I thought.
This was a real surprise... my wife is an avid climber, and recommended this after we’d seen Alex Honnald’s extraordinary ‘Free Solo’ This is equally as absorbing, beautifully filmed and a wonderful story, even if you’re not into Climbing
Mesmerising from Start to finish! Impossible is nothing! Sheer dogged determination to accomplish the seemingly impossible, but at the same time a story of friendship, grit, determination, survival and enduring against the odds! Captures the whole journey of one ‘two’ men perfectly
Great film. Great hd quality. An untold story of true heart. Inspirational for a rock climber is an understatement. Tommy Caldwell sets the bar not only for climbing, but for the kind of person we should all aim to be. Superb.
What an extraordinary story this is. Within minutes this real life documentary leads with a twist that is worthy of the best drama; it continues to unfold as the captivating and compelling story that it is. Populated by compelling, immensely likeable and passionate characters, this is an absolute must for anyone with the faintest fascination for climbing.
another oscar should have been earned for this one.. a life story, not just a single achievement.. as much as I love free solo.. this one is better, deeper.. a documentary of the highest order.. 5.14d..