Movie Review: Fall

Following on FREE SOLO, the hit documentary from 2018 about professional rock climber Alex Honnold, it’s not surprising that someone should come up with a film about a pair of rock climbers who decide to scale something a little different – a 2000-foot abandoned TV antenna tower. But while FALL has as many thrills and close calls as FREE SOLO, it is fiction – albeit nail-biting fiction.

Becky Connor (Grace Caroline Currey, SHAZAM!; ANNABELLE: CREATION) and her husband, Dan (Mason Gooding, BOOKSMART; TV’s LOVE, VICTOR) are avid rock climbers. On one of their ascents with Becky’s best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner, HALLOWEEN), tragedy strikes, leaving Becky a heartbroken mess. She turns to the booze and pills to manage her grief, much to the frustration of her father, James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, HEIST; TV’s THE WALKING DEAD). One week before the first anniversary of that event, Hunter, who has since gone on to become a social media sensation with her extreme stunts, megawatt smile and ample cleavage, returns and convinces Becky to get back on that horse, so to speak, and join her in climbing B67, an abandoned TV tower located in the Mojave Desert that’s twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Becky agrees and the two of them set off together. What could possibly go wrong with climbing a rusty tower in the middle of nowhere? For starters, the ladder that takes them up to the breakfast table-sized platform breaks away from the main structure, leaving the women with no safe way to get down. With the sun beating down on them, no water, injuries, circling vultures, and no mobile phone signal at that height, the pair must pull out all the stops in order to stay alive until someone comes to rescue them.

For a B movie, FALL is surprisingly effective. I’m not afraid of heights (I bungee jumped off the Macau Tower back in 2008, albeit that was only 764 feet and I was securely tethered) but there were a couple of times where I was squirming in my seat. This film is definitely not for the acrophobic! Kudos to co-writer/director Scott Mann (FINAL SCORE; HEIST) and his camera team for making it look so real when, obviously, the actresses are not up 2000 feet. Mann built a 100-foot structure perched on top of a cliff to substitute for the real thing. I was a bit skeptical, though, that a rusting tower would just be sitting there without any supervision but apparently there are a bunch of these towers poking through the clouds all over the US. You’d think that someone would have taken them down and sold the metal for scrap but I guess it’s not economically feasible. There is no B67 though, and the tower is based on the KXTV/KOVR Tower, which itself is a magnet for BASE jumpers. Following the arrest of a jumper in 2005 whose parachute got caught on one of the tower’s guy wires, security on the tower was beefed up.

But let’s look at the elephant in the room or, perhaps, the elephants. Becky hasn’t climbed in a year and, during that time off, her diet consisted of alcohol and prescription drugs. She would be in no shape to climb 20 feet, much less 2000. If I don’t go to the gym for a couple weeks, it’s like starting all over again when I do get back there. Then there’s the tiny matter that the pair didn’t do their homework on the tower’s condition. They would never think of climbing a rock face without learning all the risks and challenges first so why abandon all brain function now? I know the answer: Because we wouldn’t have a story otherwise.

Considering these two are up over a third of a mile, the dialogue is surprisingly devoid of F-bombs, earning the film a family-friendly PG-13 rating. Producer Lionsgate had asked Mann to scrub the foul language clean and for that he employed deepfake technology. This is becoming more prevalent in movies these days (it was used on Val Kilmer’s voice in TOP GUN: MAVERICK) and for a low budget film like this, deepfake is a lifeline as reshoots would have blown the production budget to smithereens. Even so, it’s something that many are uncomfortable with because of the high potential for abuse especially as the technology becomes cheaper and more readily available.

FALL opened in Hong Kong’s cinemas last Thursday (September 15). Shortcomings aside, the film does exactly what it was meant to do. I’m amazed to be writing this but it’s worth watching, especially on the big screen!

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