The best films are usually the ones that utilise their concepts to the maximum, but keep it simple. It allows for greater tension when your attention span isn’t being ripped to shreds, thanks to a million locations and subplots. Scott Mann’s Fall is one of the very best examples of this, an incredibly tense and exciting single-location thrill ride.
Becky (Grace Fulton) is not coping well. She lost her husband a year earlier during a climb; the event has understandably traumatised her and Becky hasn’t climbed since. Her best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) shows up to get Becky to come with her on an insane climb: a 2000-foot abandoned radio tower in the middle of nowhere.
You can guess where this is going. The pair get stuck on the top of the tower with no way down after the ladder breaks. Fall requires a decent amount of suspension of disbelief to work, but if you’re willing to forego the inconsistencies and stupid decisions both Becky and Hunter make, Fall is a thrilling watch.
The biggest issue to get past is the fact these women were foolish enough to climb what is clearly an unstable structure without telling anyone about it. No climber would ever attempt to do something like this without either having someone on the ground or just letting someone know that they’re about to go up something rusty and old without any way of alerting help if something was to go wrong.
But, there they are anyway. The women are stuck and must find a way to either get down or get help and while it seems like all is lost, Hunter and Becky prove to be resourceful and clever and find ways to aid them out of the sticky situation. Fall often falls on a frustrating structure of one or both of the women doing something death-defying, succeeding, only for it to have been for nothing. It stems out of necessity; after all, you need to fill your runtime with something and coupled with the impressive cinematography, it’s plenty entertaining, even if a tad repetitive.
The cinematography by MacGregor is thoroughly impressive and keeps things interesting, even when the narrative comes to a bit of standstill. Considering almost the entire film takes place on this tiny little platform on top of the tower, MacGregor and Mann still make Fall feel visually dynamic and exciting. The camera constantly finds new angles and the editing, by Robert Hall, cuts smoothly between the different angles.
The film’s biggest downfall is the fact that although it features a miniscule cast and mostly focuses on two female characters, it somehow still comes down to the men in their life. While Fall just about passes the Bechdel test – a measure of the representation of women in fiction – the women’s inner lives, as well as a huge chunk of the conflict, comes from their relationships to men, whether it’s Becky’s late husband or her father, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a tiny, but impactful role.
Despite these, Fall is a wildly entertaining watch and full of tension. It’s minimalistic in its approach and it works for the film; it never outstays its welcome and while it doesn’t exactly have much to say, it’s inventive enough to keep your focus. Some – or even most – scenes are certain to make you feel dizzy and a little sick to your stomach or give you vertigo, which in this case is a sign of Mann’s talent behind the camera. Fall is a little miracle of a movie, 2000-feet up in the air.
Fall is in cinemas September 2.