Wrenage here with a review: Fall. Fall is a survival flick in the vein of Frozen and 47 Meters Down. It’s about two women who climb a 2,000-foot radio tower. Things go wrong, and they get trapped at the top.
Fall stars Grace Caroline Currey (Shazam) and Virginia Gardner (Halloween). Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up briefly. Scott Mann directs. To date, Mann’s biggest accomplishment is probably getting Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dave Bautista and Kelly Hu to work with him twice each.
Remember when Kelly Hu was a thing? She cut her teeth in Friday the 13th Part VIII and showed up in The Doors and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Then she got to be in a James Cameron-written movie (Strange Days), made it to the main-cast level of Nash Bridges, survived The Scorpion King, starred with Jet Li in Cradle 2 the Grave and got to be Deathstrike in X2.
Does Fall reach the heights of Kelly Hu? Let’s see. No real spoilers.
The highs of Fall
Having a simple concept enables Fall to avoid getting confused by too much plot. All it has to do is get the women on the tower and then problem-solve their way off the tower. The reason for them getting on the tower is airtight: Youtubing, plus emotional catharsis. From that point on, it is mostly a matter of keeping the audience from asking, “Why don’t they just do X, Y or Z?”
Despite the fact little direction exists for the plot to go in — other than up or down — the script manages to squeeze in an interesting psychological wrinkle.
Effects-wise, Superman 1978 promised audiences they would believe a man could fly. Does Fall make you believe the women are truly up in the air on a small metal platform? For the most part, yes. Backgrounds are a bit wonky here and there, but backgrounds are a bit wonky in a lot of movies when it comes to projecting characters in fantastical scenarios.
Mann considered digital sets, but he built the upper portion of the tower on the side of a mountain, so the actresses look higher than they actually are for filming. The tower in the movie is roughly the height of Shanghai Tower or approximately 6,153 Twinkies stacked end-to-end.
The illusion is effective. I don’t do well with heights, even in movies. Watching the finale of James Bond’s A View To A Kill on the Golden Gate Bridge makes me dizzy. Fall produced the same effect, along with making me sweat. Your mileage may vary.
Fall also had post-production digital changes to faces, which was not noticeable at all, so it did a better job than the Superman-moustache debacle.
Since Fall did well in test screenings, Lionsgate wanted to release it to theaters with a PG-13 rating. That meant they had to remove over 30 uses of the F-word. Reshooting would have been too expensive, so a company called Flawless deep-faked the actress’s faces to change their dialogue. That is probably for the best. If a movie ends up with a lot of F words, the filmmakers should ask themselves, “Are we Quinten Tarantino? Are we Eddie Murphy? Are we Shane Black?”
If the answer is no, then don’t use so many F-words. You don’t have the talent for it. You are using the F-word as a crutch to show stress when acting should show stress.
All of this worked. Fall cost $3 million to make, had a $4 million advertising budget and pulled in $21 million at the box office. It’s nice to see little movies still finding an audience.
The lows of Fall
Watching survival shows is relaxing. Life gets reduced down to water, food, shelter and fire. If a person has those four things, they are wealthy. Modern life stressors cease to exist. No annoying co-workers, no bills, no sick family members, no breakdowns — nothing but water, food, shelter and fire.
Survival movies, on the other hand, are about anxiety. Life is reduced down to trying-not-to-die for the characters involved. Part of this is done by pitting circumstances against them. The other part is done by the performers involved.
Are Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner up to the task?
When they are climbing, they are fine. When they aren’t climbing, there is not much for them to do but get discombobulated. It becomes a bit fatiguing. For comparison, consider All Is Lost, a survival movie starring Robert Redford. Redford is a lone man on a sinking ship. He keeps his reactions to challenges neutral and quiet. Yet, it is kind of riveting to watch. Redford allows us to project our own anxieties on him. The women in Fall follow the modern trend of acting. They don’t let you project feeling. They tell you how to feel, and they only have so much to tell.
Earlier, I talked about keeping the audience from asking, “Why don’t they do X, Y or Z?” Fall does a decent job of this, but it seemed to leave a somewhat obvious one on the table. The light at the top of the tower is presented as the way to know where the tower is located and to keep airplanes from hitting it. Disabling the light seems like a logical way to get people to notice the top of the tower.
Maybe then the director would have lost his night-lighting, though…
Other than that, the best part of the movie is getting the girls to the top of the tower and stranded. Once they are there, options become limited. The filmmakers try to keep the women busy, but it is not always fully satisfying and can feel a bit contrived.
Regardless, when you are reaching for the stars, it’s a long way to fall. They reached, at least.
You probably won’t fall hard for Fall, and if you had the choice of watching Fall again or a peak Kelly Hu movie again, you would choose the peak Kelly Hu movie. Nevertheless, Fall didn’t trip up and take a nose-dive. It’s a competent movie, plus it raised my awareness of radio towers. I have one outside my window as I type. Now that I know it is out to get me, I will keep an eye on it. You won’t get me, radio tower! Three stars…
I wonder if Olivia Munn and Kelly Hu were created in the same lab? I wonder if they ever talk to each other about which is worse, The Scorpion King or The Predator?
Wait, wasn’t Olivia Munn in an X-Man movie, too? Maybe Kelly Hu and Olivia Munn are actually the same person! Maybe this entity, let’s call it Olly Mu, is reading this right now and knows I am onto her secret! Maybe right now she is slouching toward my location to silence me!
Great, now I have to worry about radio towers and Olly Mu. Why can’t life be simple and be about water, food, shelter and fire only? Why do electric-magnetic wavelengths and vindictive Asian-Caucasian amalgamations always have to complicate things?
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