When Free Solo was released in 2018, the overwhelming sentiment towards the film hinged on the fear it inspired. Even within the documentary format, stakes were high, and audiences felt vertigo watching Alex Honnold’s miraculous climb. Others seem to realize the visceral power that heights hold on the audience’s psyche. Director Scott Mann challenges the audience to stick with him in Fall, which follows two women climbing a 2000-foot tower. What Mann lacks in the story, he more than makes up for with visceral thrills. As a result, Fall mostly succeeds, despite all indications to the contrary.
The past year has been hell for Becky (Grace Caroline Currey). Her husband, Dan (Mason Gooding), fell during a climb and died from the injuries. Becky’s father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) cannot get her to move on with her life. Her best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner), who was with them on the climb, has found celebrity with her daring exploits. When Hunter shows up with an offer to climb a tower using ropes and ladders, Becky pushes herself to accept the challenge. However, tragedy soon strikes, and the two women find themselves thousands of feet above the ground with no way down.
The premise and story of Fall could have been solved in ten minutes if the characters had thought through a second of their plan. However, for this idea to work, the cast and screenplay must commit to insanity about to unfold. As a result, Mann strips back the dialogue that could potentially come in handy for the two climbers. Instead, every ounce of fat on the film comes back to play a role at some point in the movie. Making Fall a lean, mean, adventure flick helps it remain entertaining.
Mann and his editors work a miracle in the construction of their screenplay. He expertly knows when it’s time to throw a new obstacle the girls’ way, testing them with a new threat just as soon as the film begins to drag. The pacing still suffers at times, but Mann keeps things moving and keeps the girls interesting despite spending days on a circular panel.
The actual shots from the platform are vertigo-inducing. While much of the world comes from CG environments, Mann surrounds the film with tactility where he can. The rust and grime of the tower feel real. The sounds and clangs of the metal swaying in the sky lead to some genuine scares. Even the creature design that comes to matter in the context of the soundscape feels visceral. Mann showcases an excellent eye for utilizing space to its maximum potential.
The performances leave much to be desired, but Fall does not call for Oscar-level arrangements. Gardner seems game to play an unlikable girl who cannot get out of the way of her own narcissism. While her actions bring genuine pain to her friend, Gardner keeps Hunter as the overly confident girl with main character energy.
Meanwhile, Currey tries to deliver a subdued, Kristen Stewart-style performance. Currey struggles to play unassuming but locks into survival mode toward the film’s end. Whether Currey’s choice or Mann’s, her delivery of many lines seems to conflict with the horrible place she’s found herself. Ultimately, your mileage on the film may depend on how believable you find Currey’s performance.
Many will find Fall too unbelievable for its own good. However, the summer flick is a perfect time at the movies, as long as you can handle the height on the screen. Mann creates genuine tension, not only with the height but between the character interactions. As the girls struggle to survive, Mann deliberately frames each moment with enough flare to prove he is here to stay.