’Fall' is An Edge-of-Your-Seat Thriller Filled With Gravity
Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner star as thrill-seeking climbers who become trapped in this taught new movie.
‘Fall’ is now in theaters and it might just have you re-thinking plans to climb abandoned, rusty, remote towers that stretch 2,000 feet high above the desert sky.
Actually, if you were already considering planning to climb abandoned, rusty, remote towers that stretch 2,000 feet high above the desert sky, you might already want to re-think your life choices as a whole.
Still, stranding a pair of thrill-seekers thousands of feet in the sky certainly makes for a pulse-pounding drama, which gets a lot out of a little. And that’s not a criticism – ‘Fall’ offers stripped-down thrills and eschews excess for an effective story, at least until close to the end.
The movie kicks off with a throwback to Sylvester Stallone classic ‘Cliffhanger’, in which Becky (Grace Caroline Currey), husband Dan (Mason Gooding) and daredevil Hunter (Virginia Gardner) are climbing an impressive cliff face when Dan falls and is killed (this is hardly a spoiler, as it literally kicks off the movie).
Becky is shattered by the event – though probably not as much as Dan – and, mired in grief for nearly a year, shies away from any dangerous activities beyond getting drunk in bars. Her father James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a small, but emotional role) tries to pull her out of it to little effect.
Yet it’s Hunter who finally convinces Becky to get back out there, proposing a new challenge – the women will climb the 2,000-foot-high B67 TV Tower that sits abandoned in the sweltering, dusty California desert. Becky is naturally nervous to attempt it, but Hunter’s energy and cajoling helps her come back out of her shell and clambering on to the ladder.
Climbing up the tower is scary yet exciting for the pair, but when a rusted external ladder breaks and falls away, they’re left stranded high above the ground. And that’s where the drama really begins.
Director/co-writer Scott Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank originally conceived the idea as a short for a program that didn’t go ahead and have since re-tooled it into this feature. Its roots as a short piece are still evident – a lot of the kinks have been worked out, and the movie uses its sparse premise to figure out some fresh dramatic opportunities.
Currey, who you might know from ‘Annabelle: Creation,’ ‘Shazam!’ and TV’s ‘Revenge’ shares the lion’s share of the screen time with Gardner (2018’s ‘Halloween’, ‘Project Almanac’). Both actors make their characters work as the story unfolds and the pair tries to let someone that they’re stuck.
You buy into the idea that these women have known each other for years and, as the mood shifts slightly on the windswept top of the platform, they both ensure that characters (particularly Hunter) who could be annoying, never go fully that way.
With the main throughline, it’s Currey who makes the biggest impression, carrying the weight of a character searching for a way out of her crushing grief and sadness. She finds it in the thrill of accomplishment, though that soon turns back into nerve-shredding fear. Gardner does good work as Hunter, too, though.
You’ll want both of them to survive, even if you do wonder what the hell they were thinking in the first place. Being brave is one thing, but stupidly failing to bring tools that could help in the event of different scenarios is quite another.
Outside of our dynamic duo, the cast is mostly limited to Morgan’s brief moment and the few people on the ground who come anywhere near the tower – suffice to say, it doesn’t usually go well.
A smart move here was deciding against the original plan to shoot on an LED “volume” (as seen on ‘Star Wars’ series ‘The Mandalorian’), the budget instead necessitating using platforms of different heights, including one 60 feet up. The reality plays into the tension, and you actually feel the danger that the characters are in.
If you’ve ever had issues with vertigo or a huge fear of heights, we’d caution that you’ll be in for a visceral, scary experience that could test the limits of watching something like this in the theater. And that’s to Mann’s credit – he, cinematographer MacGregor and editor Robert Hall craft something that works on different levels, many of which are likely to raise your blood pressure.
Shots of screws slowly wriggling free from their warped holes, jiggling cables and impressive sound work with groaning structures and whistling wind and it whips our protagonists’ hair around their faces.
There is some overreliance on fake-outs in the early going – handles suddenly breaking free from ladders, for example. There’s foreshadowing and then there’s fore-slapping you in the face with the idea of what could happen.
And, as the story moves along and the drama deepens, one or two of the turns stretch credibility. Though it’s an ambitious way to go, there’s something about it that doesn’t quite ring true.
That said, it doesn’t detract too much from the vicarious thrills that ‘Fall’ has to offer. It will keep you guessing as to how the situation will resolve, and there are some smart visuals on display, not the least of which is the use of a drone that the two women initially use to document their achievement and then attempt to fly to a nearby town to alert the authorities to their predicament.
Provided you don’t mind a cold chill pooling in your stomach if you have any issues with height while watching, ‘Fall’ offers an entertaining ride at the movies and offers proof that it’s not just Tom Cruise that can entertain while clinging to very high things.
You may just end up at the edge of your seat… but do try to hold on, even if it’s only a two-foot fall to the floor.
‘Fall’ receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.