FALL **** UK / USA 2022 Dir: Scott Mann. 107 mins
Here’s another in the sub-genre of nerve-wracking, single-location, one-word-title tiny-cast (it’s a two-hander for most of the running time) survivalist movies. Following the harrowing likes of BURIED and FROZEN (not that one), FALL is a vertiginous, sweat-inducing endurance test for audiences of a particular persuasion. And just a dynamic, intense cinematic experience for everyone else.
It opens in CLIFFHANGER territory with a past-trauma prologue to launch the bereaved heroine’s narrative arc before the first half-hour positions all the essential elements that will pay off as major suspense beats later on. Grace Caroline Currey’s husband plummets to his death during one of their daredevil mountain climbs and she spends a year downing booze and plls while Dad Jeffrey Dean Morgan tries to offer moral support.
Her best pal / fellow lover of “dangerous shit” (Virginia Gardner) convinces her to move on and scatter her late partner’s ashes while climbing the rusty, 2000-foot tall B67 TV Tower in the Mojave Desert. Once the tallest structure in the U.S. and now a decaying old relic, it represents, in Gardner’s words, the chance to “kick fear in the dick”. Armed with cell phones, a drone, selfie stick for YouTube streaming and a carefully chosen low-cut top (“Tits for clicks”), the duo soon face a revolving door of perils, starting with the collapse of the 1800-foot internal ladder.
Co-writer / director Scott Mann cannily sets up the early portents (including roadkill a la THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) and, having smartly decided not to rely on CGI and green screen, crafts a relentless chain of queasy thrills with location shooting and filmmaking ingenuity. There are lots of nerve-wracking, FINAL DESTINATION-like close-ups of ominously loose screws, rusty joins and broken steps alongside the prevailing sound of howling winds and the tower itself eerily creaking. The scenario’s limitations are made into a virtue, from the (ultimately gruesome) use of cell phones to Gardner’s useful push-up bra.
It’s undeniably contrived, complete with a guessable, soapy sub-plot and strategic use of misdirection, but it’s so brilliantly intense on a purely visceral level – and superbly shot / edited – that it seems churlish to complain. Potentially absurd individual moments are pulled off with great aplomb, the pace seldom lets up and Mann cleverly uses a plot twist to excuse one of the more credibility-straining feats along the way. Best seen on the biggest screen (with the most robust sound) possible, it’s a tremendous ride and a firm contender for “Greatest Ever Suspense Sequence Involving High Altitude Device Charging”.
Review by Steven West