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The Sharp End, wow - what a film.
The Sharp End
© Sender Films, Dec 2008
What is it:
It's a whirlwind tour of climbing, from Alpinism through to bouldering, with a BIG dose of trad climbing in the middle.
Many of America's top performing climbers are profiled on this film; Alex Honnold, Steph Davies, Tommy Caldwell, Dean Potter, Jonny Copp and others.
It has footage from all over America, from the Eiger, from Chamonix, India, and from the Czech republic. The film is tied together by the theme 'The Sharp End', which basically means anyone that is pushing their limit in climbing.
Is it any good?
Technically, the film is superb. Well shot, professionally edited, with amazing footage and all the technical mastery that we might expect from a huge budget mainstream production like James Bond!
But did I like it?
Oh yes I did. A favourite part of the film for me was an extra; Tommy Caldwell big walling in Yosemite. What Sender Films managed to capture in this short film was the real passion that Caldwell and his wife Beth Rodden feel for the game of climbing. Watching Caldwell on the hardest big wall routes in 'The Valley' you can tell that when he's past his prime, when he is an old man, he'll still be up there on the walls. And that is something we can all relate to.
Lisa Rands climbing highball boulder problems was very inspirational to me. Highball bouldering isn't an area of climbing I know much about, but watching Rands and her husband on these giant granite eggs, it made me want to hop on a plane and get over there - right now! The sign of a great climbing film, surely.
One of the great things about this film is its diversity. You can revel in the area of climbing you're most interested in, as I did in the hard trad sections and the amazing Czech republic chapters, but you can also learn about other aspects of the sport, safe in the knowledge that Sender films aren't feeding you a load of hyperbole, that these achievements are actually the real deal.
The stand out section on first viewing was Alex Honnold in the Czech republic. This is an uncompromising place to climb:
All of the talismans you have against the danger of climbing are taken away from you, and you're left with just you...
Is a very pertinent quote, explaining how it feels to have to climb without chalk, without modern gear. It's a different challenge, and one that Honnold rises to superbly. I thought that this would be the part of the film that I'd most enjoy watching again, but I was wrong. There is so much to this film, on so many levels, that I found new points of interest and new themes to explore.
Well, the film as a whole is amazing and covers such a huge array of climbs and styles that any weak parts are not the fault of the film maker, more the choice of the viewer. I found Dean Potter's BASE solo climbs truly amazing, but I didn't get on his wavelength when he was explaining his philosophy. I did enjoy his interviews though and I liked this phrase:
Instead of dying, I'm flying
The Chamonix Alpine adventure and the Indian section I thought weren't quite up to the amazing high standard of the rest of the film, but they were still great and extremely watch-able - which is a testament to how good the rest of the film really is. Also the Eldorado canyon section wasn't my favourite, but again, as part of the package given by Sender Films in The Sharp End, it's worthwhile footage and I'm certain everyone will have their own favourite parts anyway.
Simply one of the best climbing films ever made! It's in my top five list, that's for sure. If you're looking to get inspired for 2009 - then I recommend a watch of The Sharp End.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor: