Another reminder that what goes up must come down.
Here’s the deal with Fall: It’s gloriously silly and it kind of rules. On the cusp of a new school year and fall season sure to be dominated by the latest political news, Fall offers up one last bit of fun from a summer movie season that has, by and large, delivered the goods. Top Gun: Maverick took audiences to new heights of entertainment, and Fall isn’t far behind in terms of literal height. Down some Dramamine and get ready to get stuck at the top of a radio tower 2,000 feet up in the air for two hours.
Nearly a year after losing her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) in a rock-climbing accident, Becky (Grace Fulton) is talked into going out on a climb with her best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner). Instead of a mountain or rock face, they choose a radio tower in the middle of the desert. The tower has a ladder attached to it, so the climb is easy-peasy. Two thousand feet straight up and down. What could go wrong, right?
As it turns out, everything. As Oscar-winner Eminem once told us, “Oops, there goes gravity.” The two make it to the top just in time for the rusted-out ladder to give out and drop down to earth below, landing with a dust cloud that puts Wiley E. Coyote’s best works to shame.
Writer-director Scott Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank show enough inventiveness in their creative choices to make Fall a fun time. But the movie has a bit more to offer than just the gimmick of watching people trapped so far up in the sky that they can high five the stars. The filmmakers take the time in the beginning to build out their characters and the dynamic between Becky and Hunter. After her husband’s death, Becky has turned into a reclusive alcoholic with a strained relationship with her father James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Hunter, dealing with her own guilt, just wants to do something to bring her friend out of her funk. There’s a bit too much time spent on the setup, but all is mostly forgiven once Becky and Hunter start climbing and the movie comes to life.
The fun starts once the ladder peels away from the tower, leaving Becky and Hunter to share a platform that is six feet in diameter at most. Strong gusts of wind, storm clouds, and a particularly nasty pack of vultures take turns terrorizing the duo. And then there’s the personal drama. We can’t forget the personal drama! On one hand, the revelations we get about Becky and Hunter’s friendship may seem obvious. On the other hand, it sets up a slickly executed bit of misdirection that delivers the kind of snap-back-to-reality moment that will catch unsuspecting viewers (like me) off guard.
Fall is full of breathtaking visuals, most of which consist of the leads looking down, down, down to the ground below. Cinematographer MacGregor delivers a steady stream of stunning shots despite the natural limitations imposed by the film’s conceit. The film milks its towering location for all the tension it can; granted, that’s an easy task when peering down is more than enough to put a knot in the audience’s gut.
The movie is billed as coming from the producers of another close-quarters chiller, 47 Meters Down, but Fall reminded me more of another shark-centric film, the Blake Lively vehicle The Shallows. Both films honor their premises and find inventive ways for their protagonists to try to save themselves. The leads in Fall try something they refer to as “like the egg-drop experiment” that will stick in the minds of audiences.
Fall is the kind of movie people will mock when they hear the one-sentence pitch, but the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a movie, after all, with a human versus bird scene that will call to mind Robert Pattinson’s bout with a seagull in The Lighthouse. Fall is the kind of movie that delivers exactly what it sets out to, and if you’re willing to go on the ride (or climb), then you’ll probably have a good time. Or, at the absolute least, a better time than Becky and Hunter.