People stuck in messed up situations with no possibility of escape are a potentially inexhaustible cinematic resource, as long as you give us something just a little different each time out. The premise of Fall certainly qualifies: Two experienced rock climbers find themselves stranded atop a defunct TV tower in the middle of nowhere, which stands 600 meters off the ground. While Fall delivers a familiar set of narrative beats surrounding this scenario, it sure is vertiginous as hell watching the characters flail around at this unimaginable height.


Of the pair, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner), Hunter is the only one who is still seeking thrills. Becky lost that appetite when her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) fell a year earlier, having been spooked off a rock face by a bird nesting in a crevice. He was anchored into the rock, but the piton wiggled loose as he was wriggling to get back to the safety of the surface. It’s a risk all rock climbers take, and both Becky and Hunter were there to witness it. Becky has been drowning herself in the nearest bottle ever since, her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) looking on with concern, Dan’s cremains in an unopened box amongst the detritus of her apartment.

Fifty-one weeks after Dan’s fall, Hunter shows up to shock Becky out of her stupor with an idea to get back up on that horse. It’s not a rock they’ll climb, but an old radio tower, known as the B67 TV tower, that stands more than half a K off the ground. (The tower in the film is fictitious, but was inspired by a real tower in Walnut Grove, California, that is indeed one of the world’s tallest structures.) Becky doesn’t think she can do it, nor does she want to. Not only is her trauma too fresh, but she hasn’t climbed anything in that year and isn’t in the shape she was 12 months ago. Hunter, though, has the convincing powers of both a dynamic personality who posts her daredevil exploits on YouTube, and an old friend capable of reminding her what “the old Becky” would have done. Becky decides to heed Dan’s wisdom of living life to the fullest and agrees to the dare.

Of course, neither of these women saw 127 Hours so they neglect to inform any of their loved ones where they might be going and when they might be returning. Becky can tell the structure has its rickety parts as they begin the ascent, but she remains goaded and continues the climb. Most of the way up, the climbers are partially enclosed within a triangular shaft, which provides a false sense of security and limited shelter from the wind. The last 60 meters, though, are the tower’s exposed spire and a pair of old satellite dishes still attached, loosely at best. But as all climbers know, it’s not a successful climb unless you reach the peak.

The jam they eventually find themselves in is not worth spoiling, because all a movie like Fall has is the ways things go wrong for the climbers – as well as the ways their attempts to save themselves go wrong. Fortunately, that’s all a movie like Fall really needs. And though you know, for safety reasons, that the actors were not really filmed at this height, director Scott Mann employs his digital effects team to really put you in that space. Simply put, don’t watch this film if you are afraid of heights, and don’t be surprised if you develop that fear after watching. The physical scope they’ve manufactured also makes Fall worth seeing on the big screen, a window of opportunity that may be limited, given its smaller scope as a narrative and its lack of bankable movie stars.


The two sets of shoulders we do get here, though, are capable of carrying this load. The characters believably seem to have a history. One of those familiar narrative beats, alluded to earlier, is that some big thing in that history is going to come up during the length of time they’re stranded. In order to reach feature length – Mann says this was once envisioned as a short – there are long periods free from immediate peril, and the script by Mann and Jonathan Frank fills this downtime reasonably. More to the point, Currey and Gardner keep their characters interesting to watch even when they aren’t dangling or repelling or stretching to reach a backpack that’s just beyond their grasp.


And the thrills? They’re thrilling. There’s some suspension of disbelief required here, but not as much as you might expect. Fall smartly makes use of how technology – specifically mobile phones, and a drone brought along to record their feat – might help the stranded climbers, as well as provide them false hope. There are just enough props and other narrative ingredients to keep things moving along through the running time. Not only did it exceed the length of a short, but it’s 107 minutes, without feeling padded. That’s certainly plenty of time to convince any of us watching not to try anything like this.


Fall is currently playing in cinemas.

7 / 10