‘Fall’ Review: Fear of Heights and Dumb Characters
By Daniel Rester
On a recent visit to Seattle, I went to the iconic Space Needle. Standing inside of it was cool but not wanting to go near the cage edge or the glass floor was a prime example of my acrophobia: fear of heights. So watching the film Fall, about two female climbers getting stuck on a 2,000 foot high tower, I expected to experience some white-knuckle thrills. While I found there to be a few tense moments in Fall, I was more bored than scared. Not good since I should have been an easy target for the film’s tricks.
The plot of Fall is simple and basically uses the exact same layout as 47 Meters Down (2017), just swap the diving cage and sharks for a tall tower; some of the producers of the two projects are unsurprisingly the same. Even the endings of both films are very similar. It was actually distracting how much Fall felt like a cloned product of 47 Meters Down.
In Fall, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) is grieving over the death of her husband Dan (Mason Gooding). He died during a climbing incident nearly a year earlier. James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Becky’s father, has been worrying about his daughter’s downward spiral since then.
Becky’s friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) invites her on a climbing adventure in order to get her out of her funk and to spread Dan’s ashes. The goal is to scale an old TV tower in the desert and to film the experience; Hunter wants to later upload the footage for her social media following. The two make it to the top and celebrate, but then the ladder breaks. The rest of the plot details their efforts to try to get down.
One does not expect Shakespearean writing while watching a basic genre picture like Fall. Audiences go in for the thrill rides and filmmaking creativity with these ones instead. That said, the writing should still be smart enough to carry the film and not cause it to shoot itself in the foot. The characters in Fall are so stupid and the dialoue so banal (how many different ways can they hammer home that Becky should not live in fear?) that I found myself rooting against Becky and Hunter by the end.
These characters don’t tell anyone where they are going and Hunter pushes Becky along despite her anxiety. They enter a gated zone with the sign “No Trespassing Danger of Death” on it. They don’t find the rusted ladder or vultures to be bad omens. They don’t bring food or parachutes just in case. They wait to use tools like a flare gun and a drone. They enjoy the song “Cherry Pie” by Warrant too much. Those are just some of their many faults throughout the film.
Director Scott Mann does showcase the action decently at times (like the ladder breaking) and a couple of the shots are really cool, including one of a shoe falling and another of a silhouette. The extreme wide shots of the tower and scenery are nice throughout as well. However, Mann too often favors mediums, closeups, and fast cutting instead of wide shots and long takes. This weakens the tension as the space around the characters doesn’t get to engulf them and the dread in the air doesn’t linger. A lot of these editing choices are why I never felt scared while watching Fall despite my fear of heights.
The piano score by Tim Despic is used well in Fall. The actors also do what they can to try to make the material more workable. The filmmaking is never offensively bad here either. It’s all just pretty generic and doesn’t provide enough of the thrills it promises. 47 Meters Down did it better with the sharks.
My Grade: 5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C)
Running Time: 1h 47min