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[Reviews] Movie Review: Fall (2022)

Good stunts don't make up for an ugly and oftentimes intentionally poor script.

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You just can’t look away.

Fall is a minimalist hour and a half of compelling stunts tethered to a problematic and frequently unlikable script. Most of the characters are unsympathetic, the acting frequently fails during critical moments, and the resolution isn’t satisfying.

But those stunts burn themselves in your brain.

The film’s a one-trick pony. Its one trick is its only redeeming feature.

You’re here to watch two girls navigate safely off of the top of a 2000-foot tall signal tower. You’re not hear to learn about their life stories or to receive much in the way of other character development or storytelling, which has two main consequences: One, there’s very little other than cheap thrills to sustain this movie even over its brief run time, and two, what little development you get frequently tends to cast its subjects in an increasingly negative light.

Becky (Grace Caroline Currey, Mary from the Shazam! movies) and her best friend Hunter climb mountains and other tall structures, as did Becky’s husband Dan (Mason Gooding, son of Cuba Gooding Jr.) before his fatal accident that sets up the plot of the film and stretches the credibility of Currey’s acting. Said acting improves later but is far too little, too late to redeem this short but interminably thin film whose numerous problems far outnumber its star’s best efforts.

Becky is the only sympathetic character in this film who lives past the opening. After Dan’s death, his widow spends the rest not-quite-a-year grieving with the use of alcohol and, it’s implied, medication abuse. No one else in the film mentions this or refers her to treatment despite enormous quantities of pills showing up more than once. Her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Negan from The Walking Dead) wants her to go back to “living her life,” but his approach to doing so comes across as callous and disrespectful of his daughter’s grieving process. It took me much longer than a year to get over some of my life events, and while I eventually did, they weren’t on the level of a spousal death.

But, no. Becky’s ‘friend’ Hunter (Virginia Gardner, Marvel Runaways) goads her into climbing a tower two-fifths of a mile tall, the first anything Becky will have climbed in a year, against Becky’s repeated hesitations. In the smaller picture, various aspects of the opening scenes fall apart under scrutiny, with dialogue exchanges between Becky and her father coming across as indescribably cheesy despite the family-altering and potentially life-altering emotional stakes.

I had a hard time distinguishing between the characters’ misery and my own.

Alongside establishments of Hunter’s inattentiveness (her reckless driving nearly gets her and Grace killed en route to the tower that the bulk of the running time is spent on), close-up camera angles repeatedly demonstrate that Becky is acutely aware of countless dangers and structural problems. The ladder alongside the film’s main tower doesn’t even touch the ground and is visibly rickety, along with many other parts of the rusty tower’s construction. The simple act of climbing the rungs looks like an easy recipe for tetanus. (Graphic injuries, including a brief but gory shot of one fallen character with blood and injury running up the entire side of their body, do appear later in the film. It’s especially these images, alongside the frequent strong language including multiple F-words in the closed captions, that make this film undeserving of its PG-13 rating.)

The girls take no precautions and barely any safety equipment. Hunter, in particular, has no interest in making sure her still-grieving partner is physically or emotionally ready for their arduous task. Becky’s sidekick adheres to a narrow-minded “you only live once” philosophy, and the movie feels stuck between glamorizing this and endlessly demonstrating why it’s a bad idea. The film feels voyeuristic in its own morbid way, with camera positions and angles endlessly exploiting two beleaguered women with toned physiques: One of them makes a joke about this, and though the film and its premise likely weren’t aware, another joking reference to Victoria’s Secret feels particularly tone-deaf in light of the manner in which one of that company’s founders committed suicide.

The film’s brief scatological humor doesn’t help lighten the mood (there’s an insinuation that one girl is staring at the other’s offscreen privates as she does so, in a film with dramatic tension already ruined by too many breast-and-butt shots), and the girls’ struggle to reach solid ground feels like a weird mix of shock and tedium, with their solutions rarely feeling imaginative, never mind well-secured. One critical piece of equipment is destroyed due to an operational neglect you could probably see and hear literally a mile away, and the girls run their phones’ batteries down on flippant tasks like looking at photos when it’s “established” that their phones lack signal strength to contact family members or emergency services. The climbing scenes are engrossing, as are the from-Earth-to-heaven camera shots, but due to the way the movie was filmed, it’s not always clear how much of what we’re seeing is actually real, even if the climbing itself was (but not to the level of a two-thousand-foot distance).

SPOILERS: Several elements ruin the story but are critical to discuss.

Becky’s husband Dan and best friend Hunter cheated on her with each other prior to the events of the film, throwing away nearly all of my remaining goodwill for anyone here except Becky. Watching her slowly realize that she has no one to ethically or pragmatically trust—she started the movie without a husband and ends it without a marriage—is as horrifying as watching her stuck atop a signal tower. Hunter “apologizes,” and Becky gives her much more grace than she deserves, but it’s all for naught. Most of the film’s third act is a self-induced hallucination, with Hunter actually having died from an accident partway through the story.

On top of that, when we do eventually see Becky’s rescue, it isn’t depicted. We see emergency officers and a helicopter, but the film’s low budget doesn’t show the latter in action, which raises logical problems. I’ve been near a helicopter on the ground. You can hardly stand in one place because of the high winds pushing you back. It’s not established whether Becky knows to brace herself against the strong forces from the helicopter’s rotary wings, especially on top of a tiny platform on a narrow structure that’s already shown to be unstable; one minute she’s alone atop the tower, and literally the next, she’s on the ground, reunited with her father. Visually, most of the film makes great use of its tiny budget. Then it blows the ending.


Conclusion: A visually arresting but heavily flawed film with a less-than-mediocre script

Fall is one big shock of a thrill ride, counterbalanced by a very poor story and array of characters, with questionable pacing and inconsistent acting performances throughout most of the film. Late-movie makeup is well done, particularly on the two “leads” who are now covered in debris and physical injury, but some of the shots of Becky’s crying, particularly early on, could have been left on the cutting-room floor, whether because of them feeling exploitative or simply because of Currey’s acting buckling under the weight of an endlessly unlikable story.

The film tries to spin its overall concept as an inspirational message, which it then garbles both as a cheap attempt at humor and as a failed overall summation of how to live one’s life, whether recklessly and “to the full” or with the carefulness and responsibility that endless tragedies and contrivances dictate.