Review: King Lines – A film by Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer

This movie follows Chris Sharma around the globe looking for king lines from the Mediterranean Sea to the Venezuelan jungle. For anyone who’s been away from earth for the last 10 years, Chris Sharma is one of the best rock climbers in the world and he’s the poster boy for “the life” of the pro climber.

When I watched this year’s Banff Film Festival, the one thing I noticed was that the standard of photography and the quality of production has really increased significantly in the last couple of years. King Lines is certainly part of this new generation of top quality productions and you’ll certainly notice the difference. The days of a cheap video camera and home editing are over.

The format is slightly different from the normal climbing movies because it has a central character. We follow Chris as he goes from place to place, establishing outrageously cool and difficult sport routes, Deep Water Solo’s (DWS) and boulder problems. There are a couple of minor continuity errors like chalk on routes that he’s supposed to be opening onsight, but this is hardly something to get excited about. In between the main segments, there are shorter bits like a bouldering comp in Spain and interviews with people who knew Chris when he started climbing as a kid. This works really well because it prevents the onset of boredom, although I’d have preferred it if they’d told us the names of all the other people featured in these segments (you’ll be surprised at all the big names when the credits run).

The main feature of the movie is a DWS project that climbs the underside of an arch that is completely surrounded by water. The route has a huge dyno about half way and Chris repeatedly takes the 10m fall into the (not always calm) Mediterranean. Everything about this route is spectacular and you are so drawn in that you somehow feel part of the team when he finally sticks the dyno and climbs to the top.

In previous movies (eg Dosage 3) Josh Lowell has shown people trying but not succeeding on projects and this is no different. Here he shows Chris working a mega project at Mt Clark in the USA. The route is simply staggering – it’s bigger and steeper than anything you’ve seen before. The difficulty is clearly evident because he is forced to skip several bolts in a row – and repeatedly takes huge falls. The fact that he doesn’t succeed could be an indication that this route is a new level of difficulty.

Each segment has it’s own feel and there is even a section with some desert climbing in Moab that will keep grumpy trad climbers like Tony Dick happy.

Well done Josh and Peter – this is definitely a movie worth seeing and owning.

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