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Movie review: 'Fall' reaches new heights for thrills

1/5
Hunter (Virginia Gardner) hangs on in "Fall." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Hunter (Virginia Gardner) hangs on in "Fall." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- As much as movies can show us infinite possibilities, movies about extreme limitations can be equally thrilling. Fall, in theaters Friday, mines suspense at the top of a 2000 foot tower.

One year after husband Dan (Mason Gooding) died in a rock climbing accident, Becky (Grace Caroline Curry) joins her friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner), to climb the B67-TV tower. Hunter will film it for her YouTube channel, but hopes it will help Becky overcome her grief and let her spread Dan's ashes.

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At the top, the ladder breaks, stranding Becky and Hunter 2,000 feet in the air. Fall gets 107 minutes (credits included) out of this premise, and gets to the tower in the first 15.

The climb up is harrowing enough with the rusty ladder shaking and screws coming loose, and it escalates from there. Before they're stuck, Hunter and Becky take dangerous selfies hanging from the top of the tower. There's no signal up there, so they can't call for help.

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Hunter and Becky spend the movie devising ways to send a message beyond the tower and dealing with injuries, hunger and thirst. They also dropped their backpack when the ladder broke, and it's hanging on a satellite dish just out of reach.

Fall gives Hunter and Becky precarious tasks like the classic The Wages of Fear. In that film, a slip would explode nitroglycerin, but a slip in Fall would mean they plummet to their deaths.

Even with their soundest plans, the script pulls the rug out from under them, exacerbating danger further. Some of those twists are predictable, especially when they pull the same one from 47 Meters Down, from the same producers.

Their physical condition without food, with little water and in direct sun gradually worsens, worsening their fraught condition. Time alone together forces Becky and Hunter to deal with their personal issues, too.

Fall is beautifully photographed by MacGregor. He gets some impressive shots straight down on the tower and the opening rock climbing accident. Those likely used drones, or maybe he really put a camera at the top.

One shot of Hunter and Becky climbing up pulls away from the tower to show how high they are in a single shot. MacGregor captures a beautiful silhouette at the top during sunrise, too.

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Visual effects are seamless. One hopes there were a lot of safety cables and harnesses that were erased in post-production to add to the real-life dilemma.

A few questionable character developments are worth noting, but don't ruin the film because they're established so quickly. One respects the effort to portray Becky's extreme grief and trauma, but she lays it on really thick with binge drinking, dirty dishes piled in the sink, calling her husband's voicemail and contemplating an overdose of pills.

The film makes Hunter's cleavage a point that she emphasizes for her YouTube channel, but when exerting herself during the crisis, it really emphasizes how exploitative such footage can be. Gardner obviously agreed to do it, so perhaps has something to say about the phenomenon herself, and the push-up bra becomes a tool they use in escape attempts.

There's also a funny oversight in the credits. The characters' full names are Dan and Becky Connor, but Becky's father is also James Connor (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Were they all from the same family or did Dan take his wife's name?

Fall delivers on its promise to give viewers a full movie's worth of thrills in a confined setting. The mechanics of the plot are more significant than the character development, but those mechanics are really what you come to a movie like Fall to see.

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Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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