Fall‘s handling of tension is perhaps its most commendable aspect. As Becky and Hunter’s confinement to the tower begins, it’s hard to imagine what could even be done to alert anyone to their situation. Much less orchestrate a rescue. As their situation worsens, the script does a fine job of keeping their attempts at overcoming their captivity relatively fresh. With one notable exception, the tactics used are fairly clever and varied.
However, even before Becky and Hunter reach the platform, the tension mounts particularly well. Viewers who suffer from acrophobia (such as yours truly) will find their heart rate increasing and adrenaline pumping whether they’re in a movie theater seat or at home. Despite a very modest $3 million budget, the sheer scope of the danger the women face is never in question. And convincing the audience that the characters are 2,000 feet in the air is only part of the tension, as the film never lets us forget that the women are in the middle of nowhere.
Unfortunately, as successful as the film’s high concept (no pun intended) is, Fall‘s script is woefully poor. The circumstances that bring Becky and Hunter to the tower are simply not compelling enough and strain credulity. Becky watched her husband fall to his death and, instead of making this death-defying climb wholly about reclaiming her life, she’s instead all but bullied into accompanying Hunter. Even as the women reach the tower and begin their ascent, Becky suffers intense moments of panic that Hunter simply ignores. It leaves the audience without much to grasp in terms of characterization for Becky or, for that matter, even motivation.
Making matters worse in the script is a poorly telegraphed emotional beat between the two leads. As they are faced with near certain death, a revelation comes out between the two former best friends. The script does an extremely piss poor job of concealing this plot point, instead telegraphing character secrets through weak dialogue that’s only meant to lay massive breadcrumbs for reveals later in the film and not for any character building purpose.
After this revelation comes to light, Fall doesn’t do much of anything to explore its dramatic implications. Granted, the characters are in a highly compromised position which demands their full attention. But instead of finding a way to work this drama into the high concept plot, Fall introduces it for flimsy shock value and then discards it without really resolving the drama between the two characters. Instead it discards the drama in favor of a shock plot turn that leaves the drama slightly unresolved.
Aside from some extremely awkward visual effects work early in the film, Fall manages its reported $3 million budget well. That is, for what’s onscreen. Perhaps the film’s most frustrating moment comes at the end, when the story seemingly skips straight to the denouement and reaches an abrupt end with a perfunctory sentimentality between characters that doesn’t feel the least bit earned. The ending is so jarring it feels as though the budget couldn’t be stretched any further and an entire sequence was cut out with the decision made to not replace it.
While the tension and most of the visual effects are strong enough to trigger anxiety in even the least acrophobic viewer, Fall‘s script seems like someone had an idea and built an unoriginal, cobbled together drama around that concept. If you’re looking for a anxiety producing acrophobic thriller you can shut your brain off for, Fall should deliver. If you’re looking for something a bit more character driven, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.