Fall – Review

Fall NetflixClimbing an abandoned radio tower that soars 2000 feet into the cloudless Mojave Desert sky. It sounds like something Tom Cruise would probably consider doing before breakfast. Instead, it’s the plot of Scott Mann’s Netflix drama, Fall, which attempts to keep that “stomach dip” feeling for the entirety of its run time.

The film opens with Dan (Mason Gooding), his wife Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and their friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) attempting a particularly challenging climb. A problem with harnesses and lack of grip quickly sees Dan plummet to an untimely death. The special effects are poor, but this is a necessary plot device to really get Fall going. One year on, Becky is still grieving so Hunter convinces her widowed friend to put on her climbing gear and attempt to climb the radio tower with her.

One thing that Fall does well is the setup to the climb itself. The tower is in the middle of nowhere, with just a roadside diner and motel for company. This feels like the type of location where everyone keeps themselves to themselves and no one asks where the bodies are buried. Mann instills an immediate sense of unease – this is clearly not a good idea. In fact, Becky repeats this thought over and over again whilst Hunter – who seems to only care about views for her YouTube channels – tries to convince her that it will help her recover.

The climb is really not for the faint hearted. The tower sways (a little too easily) in the desert breeze. Important looking joints are rusted over. Rungs on the various ladders crumble away to dust. Bolts rattle against the tower, all too ready to pop out. Some of the camera shots give you the exact same feeling as when you’re about to drop on a rollercoaster. Every time Becky or Hunter takes another step, you do feel yourself tensing up. Bar from a couple of ropes and clips, neither of them seems particularly well equipped for experienced climbers. The sight of a couple of extremely hungry vultures adds to the ominous air. You can’t help but wonder what type of friend would suggest doing the very activity that caused one of their group to plummet to a nasty death as a means of catharsis for his grieving widow.

Fall NetflixBut that’s about as good as it gets. The acting, throughout, is quite terrible. Both actresses seem very stilted and wooden, reciting lines as if they were trying to get through a shopping list. There’s no sense that they have been lifelong friends with a passion for adventure (albeit their characters have drifted apart). The special effects – so cringey in the opening sequence – don’t improve, which is an issue when you are supposed to believe that these characters are in grave danger. There are also several gaping plot holes (the phone battery being the most obvious) and so-called “dramatic twists” that you can see coming a mile off.

It’s a shame because this is a film that has the potential to reach across a number of genres such as horror and survival drama. The single location – the top of the abandoned tower does its best to help grip your interest, making you queasy any time someone puts a foot a little too close to the edge whilst wondering how on earth these two women are going to be able to alert someone to their predicament. But the best thing that Fall has going for it really is those vertigo-inducing shots down to the ground. Cinematographer MacGregor – a Madrid-born artist who also worked on 2019’s Vivarium – knows exactly how to tease his audience, delivering plenty of near-misses that will have you hiding behind a cushion.

Fall is a film of two halves. The climb itself is so well executed, as are the stomach lurching shots from the top of the tower. But the poor acting, the predictable plot devices and cheesy looking effects really let it down. It’s probably also about twenty minutes too long, causing the heightened sense of drama to slacken off several times.

Fall is now streaming on Netflix.

Mary Munoz
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