Two climbers become stranded atop a 610-metre tower with no food or ways to communicate with the world below them. Digital editor Dan Jensen checks out a new survival thriller guaranteed to bring on the vertigo.
WHEN A MINIMALIST thriller is done right, it can be a truly effective movie experience. Films where one or two characters are placed in a perilous situation (Open Water, The Wall, Buried) and where the predicament drives the plot can lead to white-knuckle tension.
Fall does for heights what Jaws did for the ocean and The Blair Witch Project did for the woods. Directed by Scott Mann and starring Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner, it tells the story of a pair of mountain climbers who are stranded on top of a 610-metre television tower in the middle of nowhere. Plain and simple, but it works brilliantly.
Almost a year after Becky (Currey) encounters a tragedy while climbing a mountain with her best friend Shiloh (Gardner), she is encouraged to face her fears in order to lift herself out of intense depression. The two embark on a mission to climb a massive tower in the desert, but after the structure's ladder collapses, they realise they have no way of getting back down. The situation is made worse when during their struggle for survival, dark secrets emerge that test the relationship between the two.
Fall brings storytelling back to its most basic form with an absence of many characters or a complex plot and taps into the part of the brain that will either make you want to cover your eyes or have one of the most thrilling experiences in a cinema this year. It's a purely fun adrenaline rush, made all the more thrilling by how completely believable everything looks and feels.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the film is that it was mostly shot without the use of green screens, giving it a truly authentic feel. Fall was made using sections of the tower placed on top of a mountain, so while the actors weren't too far off the ground, it genuinely looks like the characters are hundreds of metres up and in real danger. There are many moments that will have you clenching your fists, no matter how deeply your fear of heights may run. There are some scenes that rely on effects wizardry, but the CG work is flawless.
The performances of the two leads serve the story adequately. Currey's portrayal of a woman consumed by grief lends sympathy to the character, making her later plight even more traumatic. And Gardner's sidekick character comes across as slightly annoying, but it's for a good reason. You're meant to harbour some dislike for her.
But none of that matters because at the centre of Fall is the tower itself. At first, it's a symbol of hope and overcoming fear, but it doesn't take long before it becomes the film's true antagonist and a larger threat than the vultures circling it. To put it in perspective, there are only three buildings in the world taller than the structure in the film. Halfway up the climb, Shiloh comments that they are at the same height as the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The camera work by Spanish cinematographer MacGregor is outstanding. Utilising real height and featuring some stunning aerial photography, Fall features plenty of dizzying moments. The sound design is noteworthy, too. The creaking of the structure as the characters climb, the rattling of loose bolts, the harsh wind and other elements all come together to make a terrifying experience. Despite the comfort of a cinema seat, you feel like you're up there on that tower.
Fall has its moments where disbelief needs to be suspended in a big way and there are plenty of moments that can be nit-picked. Sure, it seems hard to fathom that the pair wouldn't notify anyone of where they're going in case of emergency and sure, it's hard to believe that mobile phones could last a few days without the need for recharging. The movie definitely has flaws. But overall, the thrills and spectacle of being up on that tower in such a deeply perilous situation deliver exactly what the film intended - a heart-pounding cinematic rush that will induce vertigo and stay with you long after the credits roll.
Make sure you see this on the biggest screen possible to really appreciate the full effect!
Fall is now showing in cinemas across the country.