Fall Synopsis: For best friends Becky and Hunter, life is about conquering fears and pushing limits. However, after they climb 2,000 feet to the top of a remote, abandoned radio tower, they find themselves stranded with no way down. Now, their expert climbing skills are put to the ultimate test as they desperately fight to survive the elements, a lack of supplies, and vertigo-inducing heights.
Two thrillseekers find themselves stranded in a rickety radio tower that stands thousands of feet above ground in Fall. Survivalist thrillers like Scott Mann’s latest death-defying effort are a Hollywood mainstay, often defining their distinct landscape into a sinister adversary stalking its unknowing inhabitants. Jaws morphed the vast sea into a hellscape haunted by menacing sharks, while the claustrophobic thriller Buried found audiences uniquely ensnared in a coffin buried belowground.
With Fall, Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank trap viewers on a flimsy tower platform that sits isolated amidst the heat-scorched skyscape. The results are a welcomed surprise. As a piece of late-summer escapism, Fall finds Mann and company crafting a breathless, edge-of-your-seat thriller from familiar mechanics.
Mann deserves significant praise for evoking his setting with profound impact. Dynamic drone cameras maneuvering the sky and intimate go-pros bolted on the tower’s sleight platform enrich the uneasy atmosphere of the high-wire environment. If you are afraid of heights like me, Fall does a great job of provoking those fears through its immersive visceral scale. Mann makes every creaking tower noise and mighty gust of wind feel impactful as effective world-building tools. It’s an impressive cinematic feat as Mann ingeniously crafts a film that conjures extravagant summer entertainment on an economical $3 million budget (the film looks ten times better than the $200 million The Gray Man).
Once viewers find themselves stuck on the tower, Fall ups the ante in breathtaking ways. Whether it’s the presence of lurking vultures or the challenging parkour feats our protagonists perform to survive, Fall evokes gasp-inducing thrills and breathless excitement in ways few thrillers can match. Mann’s ratcheting of tensions and the inventive situations of Frank’s screenplay combine to make a non-stop roller coaster ride during the tightly-pace 107-minute runtime.
On a narrative front, Fall is more of a mixed bag. Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner admirably depict the gradual wear-and-tear Becky and Hunter endure while sharing lived-in chemistry as life-long friends. I found the characterization most impactful when digging into the philosophies that motivate these characters in their quest for audacious thrills. Hunter becomes an especially intriguing presence as a YouTuber commodifying an indelible spectacle for her viewers.
Other plot elements fall flat in their stilted execution. For example, a melodramatic character revelation and an all-too-predictable plot twist try too hard to raise tensions when they don’t need the narrative padding. Neither plot element lands with the humanity or nuance required to sell the intended impact. The script here is often efficient but rarely rises above the level of your typical genre thriller.
A few narrative missteps still don’t prevent Fall from providing a compelling survivalist story. The film will serve as a tremendous crowdpleasing yarn for theater-packed audiences.
Lionsgate releases Fall in theaters nationwide on August 12.
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