FALL

★★

HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Liz Chan
17th September 2022

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So why not climb a 2,000-foot (610-metre) abandoned communications tower? With occasional gasp-inducing shocks and twists, 'Fall' mainly takes a tumble as a one-shot amusing story idea that you'd tipsily pitch to friends that's stretched to a whopping 107-minute run-time and plagued with major continuity issues.

The film sees two best friends who have drifted apart, Becky and Hunter, attempting to scale a tower hundreds of metres above the ground in order to recover from previous similarly dangerous stunt-related trauma, scatter an ex-husband's ashes, and most importantly get famous on the internet. With the very assuring opening credit that you're about to see some real filmmaking that is Buzzfeed Studios, 'Fall' sets off quickly and settles into the first plot point in the opening sequence. Becky (Grace Caroline Currey, 'Shazam!') and her husband Dan (Mason Gooding, 'Scream') are scaling a rock wall along with Becky's adventurous best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner, 'Halloween'), when Dan falls to his death in a tragic misstep. Without giving us much time to grieve (Mason Gooding?! I didn't even know you were going to be in this... Noooo!!!), the film quickly rolls along and jumps to a very specific 51 weeks ahead, with Becky drowning her sorrows and pushing away her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, TV's 'The Walking Dead'). When Hunter, now an extreme stunts social media influencer, shows up at her door proposing they climb a 2,000-foot communications tower so Becky can recover from her trauma... what could go wrong?

With Becky and Hunter already beginning their ascent of the tower just under 15 minutes into the 107-minute movie, it is undeniably admirable how writer/director Scott Mann ('Final Score') and co-writer Jonathan Frank ('Final Score') have attempted to craft a feature-length story with such minimal setting and characters. The climb up is absolutely nail-biting, with shots of rattling bolts and creaking ladders as the two girls make their way. Hunter helpfully reminds Becky (and the audience) halfway up that they've climbed higher than the height of the Eiffel tower. The cinematography is impressive for a US$3 million budget and works sufficiently to impose a sense of the absolute scale and height of the tower. During post-production, VFX company Fearless had to come in and artificially redub the girls' F-bombs to slightly more family-friendly words of panic so that Lionsgate could grant 'Fall' the magical PG-13 stamp of endorsement in the United States. I'm glad to report back that the artificial redubs were not noticeable to me, and the VFX actually looked great overall for such a small budget! With the girls successfully making it up the tower to scatter Dan's ashes (Becky) and take a couple of absolutely unhinged pictures for #content (Hunter), the film takes a twist as they find themselves stranded on top.

'FALL' TRAILER

This is where the film truly stumbles, with the writing and absolute lack of attention to continuity setting it back. Although Currey and Gardner are trying their best to bring across each character's desperation and emotion, the script is clunky and the thrown-in plot twist involving Dan does not lend any assistance. Climbing a tall structure for internet views may sound a little silly, but I really don't think it is an unbelievable plotline. In fact, a quick YouTube search would present a barrage of travel vloggers climbing tall cranes and towers with bare-bones harnesses (or none at all) and a drone for capturing content that Becky and Hunter also possess in the movie. Some of them may even succeed in bringing across a better sense of tension threaded with realism than 'Fall' (check out James Kingston's YouTube channel if you dare).

However, the way different character motivations are threaded into each other in the script makes for a confusing and senseless story. Hunter is written as an established influencer seemingly because that is the only way the plot can justify the girls climbing the tower. However, she does nothing that a real extreme stunts influencer would do - such as bring backup ways to record content or charge one's phone - besides hang precariously at the end of a high surface for content. Taking the "influencer character" route is a popular option in many 2020s films, and contrary to popular opinion I don't think it's a tired trope at all (yet) and can still make for a really engaging character! However, as such a career becomes more commonplace and demystified, simplified writing and unembellished characterisation will do no favours for the advancement of a story beyond the look of a satire. Becky, on the other hand, wants to somehow get over her past trauma by climbing a tall tower (instead of going to therapy...?) and hates being in front of Hunter's camera the entire time. Throw in the fact that both girls are supposed to be experienced climbers (as presented in the film multiple times) and the story becomes even more confusingly unbelievable on why they would not take precautions or know what to do. I also have a genuine question to any experienced climber reading this: wouldn't it be possible for them to get down from the tower using their harnesses the same way characters in 'Mulan' (1999) climb up and down the poles? So many things to think about...

Perhaps the most amusing part of 'Fall' that really detracts from the attempts to establish tension and fear against the setting and plot of the film is the sheer lack of continuity.

Perhaps the most amusing part of 'Fall' that really detracts from the attempts to establish tension and fear against the setting and plot of the film is the sheer lack of continuity. Somehow, when a drone is charged, it makes the iPhone charged ding! sound. Phones lose reception and battery power even when showing a fully charged status. Sadly, neither Becky nor Hunter have the new iPhone 14 that would be able to be used to contact emergency services without reception. Although the visuals try to sustain tension, the repetitive nature of scares and nail-biting sequences would have probably benefitted from a shorter runtime. As the film rolls into the third act with vultures and ghostly hallucinations entering as a major plot point, the film manages to hang on by just a finger.

Even with admirable best efforts, 'Fall' has neither the brave campiness or brazen absurdity to cement itself as a cult thriller classic, nor enough logic or pure spectacle to prove itself believable as a memorable action flick. But all things aside, it is also impressive and heart-warming that a very modestly-budgeted action movie that would probably go straight to streaming these days has triumphantly clinched a theatrical release. The best way to describe 'Fall' would be a film used for some cheap clickbait content on TikTok or YouTube before being forgotten for the next thing in two weeks... just the kind of content Hunter was going for.

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