(CLICK HERE to read my full review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
When talking about movies, there are countless examples of utterly absurd ideas that somehow found funding and made their ways to the screen. At the same time, when put in the hands of smart filmmakers, the silliest concepts can sometimes be turned into something unexpected and memorable. This is especially true when said filmmaker remembers a central component of good cinema – the human element.
To its credit, the new thriller “Fall” from director Scott Mann makes an effort to weave in some of that humanity mentioned above. Themes like grief, loss, fear, betrayal, and renewal all find their way into the story. But the emotional underpinning is so weak and flimsy that none of the themes resonate. And the ginned up drama that’s meant to add character depth is so poorly conceived that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. So that leaves us with nothing but the incredibly silly concept which only gets sillier as the movie progresses.
Grace Caroline Currey plays Becky, a young woman still reeling from the death of her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) during a mountain climbing accident. That was nearly a year ago, and Becky hasn’t climbed since. Overcome by her grief, she spends her time locked up in her apartment, soaked in booze and calling Dan’s phone just to hear his voicemail. Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up as her well-meaning but insensitive father who’s genuinely worried about his daughter but can’t quite veil his long-held dislike for Dan. Despite his good intentions, he only drives Becky deeper into her hole.
Just as Becky has about had all she can take, she’s surprised by a visit from Hunter (Virginia Gardner), her best friend who she hasn’t seen in months. Hunter was there on the rock face with Becky and Dan the day he died. Determined to get her friend out of the apartment, Hunter plans an outing. But not to have coffee, to see a movie, to take a hike, or do some shopping. No, instead Hunter recommends they climb to the top of a remote 2,000-foot television tower.
In fairness to the screenwriters, there is a thematic throughline about getting back on your feet and conquering your fears that’s meant to give purpose to the lead duos’ dangerous climb. But as the absurdities rack up and the flimsiness of the characters becomes evident, the entire premise (brittle as it already is) falls apart.
The pair arrive, park their truck next to the locked gate with the big “No Trespassing” sign (hardly a deterrent to these two), and then make the two-mile walk to the base of the tower. Now for most people, one simple look at the rusty and rickety tower would be enough for common sense to kick in. It would make us think “You know, maybe this isn’t a good idea.” But not these two. Instead they begin to ascend what Hunter proclaims is the fourth tallest structure in the United States (forgive me if I didn’t bother to fact-check that). To her credit, Becky does show a little hesitation. But Hunter, a thrill-seeking YouTuber, sees it as a chance to impress her 60,000 followers.
If you’ve seen the trailer or even the poster you know that Becky and Hunter make it to the top. There they pose for pictures, let out some primal screams, and do a few other things that make us question their sanity before deciding to descend. But when the ladder breaks and crashes to the ground below, the two friends are left stranded 2,000 feet above land with no way down. From there it becomes a fight against fear, the elements, and one pesky vulture. A laughable survival element is introduced, we get a hokey Hallmark-esque reveal, and there’s one particular far-fetched twist that isn’t nearly as clever as it wants to be.
In one sense you could say the movie does its job. My wife (who has an intense fear of heights) told me her hands were sweaty throughout, and she was constantly having to look away from the screen. That’s because Mann uses some impressive CGI and a number of cool dizzying camera tricks to amplify the sense of height-induced dread. In that way “Fall” is effective, and I can see it terrifying those with anything close to acrophobia, especially on the big screen.
Sadly the frights only go so far, and they aren’t enough to cover the silly and sometimes nonsensical directions this thing goes. Yes, there were moments when I felt the anxiety of being stranded and exposed high above the earth. But more than that I felt bewilderment as I tried to grasp the inanity of the story turns and the borderline bizarre character choices. I wish this were a case of just turning off your brain and enjoying the movie for what it is. Unfortunately, “Fall” never gives you a reason to have your brain on in the first place. “Fall” opens tomorrow (August 12th) in theaters.
I liked the trailer for this, and I think I’ll just stick with re-watching it again instead of the whole film.
I liked the trailer too and it had me looking forward to the movie. But I was pretty disappointed in the final product.
OMG I just watched the trailer and had 4 heart attacks. I’ll pass (out)!
The visuals are pretty wild! The story and the characters though….yikes
I will not watch this at all. Yeah, I’m not into heights either but that’s one reason why I won’t watch this. I also heard they did some deepfake shit to cover all of the profanity from the film. Now that’s just fucking insulting. What a bunch of fucking dickwads who will do that just to get younger audiences to watch their fucking piece of shit movie. I oughta choke them the fuck out like the late, great Judo Gene LeBell. Did you ever hear that story about what he did to Steven Seagal during the production of Out of Justice? Man, as if my lack of respect of Seagal couldn’t get any bigger. This just adds more salt to the wound and further proof that Seagal is a fat tubby traitorous bitch.
I don’t get too hung up on profanity, but here’s the funny thing – there’s still plenty of cursing in the movie. Not sure what the accomplished other than to get the MPAA to knock down the rating so that more people could suffer through the movie.
Cool. Yet another movie that makes climbers look like total dopes. I hate Hollywood sometimes man. From Cliffhanger, to Vertical Limit, they just don’t care whether they (we) look like total clowns.
The rare exception might be Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction. That’s well done stuff. But a movie like Fall isn’t really interested in (or concerned about) accuracy or responsible presentation. No, recklessness sells tickets. Really really chafes me.
That’s a perspective I haven’t thought about yet I can totally understand it. This definitely isn’t interested in highlighting climbers. Then again, it’s not really interested in telling a good story either soooo….
In fairness, it’s a perspective most people won’t think about it. I merely mention this because there are people who do the thing represented in a movie, and often they’re betrayed by writerly style and whimsy. It’s all good; I won’t see Fall regardless and I think there are worse examples (i.e. Vertical Limit — a regrettable output from Martin Campbell) 😉
Ahhhh yes. Vertical Limit. I had completely forgot about that movie.
I first saw the trailer in theaters and that was a big reason for me seeing Fall on the biggest screen I could. I agree that the story was weak, but the suspense was so well done. I personally thought the twist was good even though it has been done before.
The visuals and the suspense from them alone had me pretty excited to see it. I definitely give them credit there. Some of those shots were absolutely dizzying (in a good way). Lots of craftsmanship there.