Fall Review: Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner Are At a Place Called Vertigo
Leave it to James Harris, who produced the thrillers 47 Meters Down and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, to take his adrenaline-thrillers above water levels; make that approximately 2,000 feet above water. Fall, directed by Scott Mann (Heist) and co-written by Mann and his Heist co-writer Jonathan Frank, is a new thriller about two women that get trapped atop a 2,000-foot radio tower. This certainly is not the movie for those who don’t like roller coasters or heights. Fall does deserve credit for a fun synopsis and a fun time at the movies for the first 30 minutes. The film then falls off faster than Virginia Gardner’s character can take a selfie to capture the moment — which is saying something.
51 weeks after a tragic accident, Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) is stuck in a cycle of drinking booze and wasting time finding the bottom of a glass. One day, her best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) convinces her to conquer her fear and grief by climbing a 2,000-foot radio tower (as you do). Why they couldn’t just ease Becky back into climbing with an indoor rock climb is beyond me, but the two make a six-hour drive to the aforementioned radio tower. While they do make it to the top, things don’t go smoothly and as these films usually go, the ladder breaks which leaves the best friends stranded at the top with no way down.
As you might imagine, Fall is hell-bent on making the viewer feel stranded with the two lead characters. Outside of the opening scene with some spotty CGI, the visuals are quite breathtaking, if not terrifying. You’ll likely have a headache from the swooping shots that show nothing but an open desert in the background of Becky and Hunter. It makes two humans look like ants in the grand scheme of things. If you’ve seen both 47 Meters Down and Fall, a question you’ll likely be asking yourself while watching is: Would it be worse to be stuck in the middle of the ocean or atop a radio tower in the middle of nowhere? Both options are equally bleak, in my humble opinion.
The film peaks rather early and that is when Becky and Hunter are making the climb up the radio tower. Sure, there’s far too much movie left at this point for anything major to happen, but the intensity raises with each checkpoint that they reach and makes it feel like there are stakes (something the rest of the film fails to do). The first half of the climb occurs within the confines of a cage around the ladder (a reference to 47 Meters Down, perhaps?), the next few hundred feet are without any protection, and then you have the flat platform at the top. I’ve never had any interest in climbing, and this film only validated that further. Granted, all of this happens when you’re still interested in the characters. After all of this, it goes downhill and you won’t really care about the fate of one of these characters.
While the whole point of the film is getting Becky back into climbing in an effort to get over her grief, it’s so contrived. I mean, we’re supposed to believe that Becky and Hunter are best friends, but would I really want a friend that peer pressures me into climbing a radio tower that is double the height of the Eiffel Tower? More of the blame should be put on the script than the actors, but more times than not, Virginia Gardner’s character is annoying to the point that you won’t really care about the fate of her character. It doesn’t help that there are a couple of twists with her character — both of which fall flat. The first twist paints her in such a light that your perception of her will further sour (if it hadn’t already) and felt like it was just thrown in to add conflict and tension between the two characters like they are on a reality show a la Survivor. The second twist is supposed to have some meaning but ends up falling flat because I swear the same twist was used in one of the 47 Meters Down films; I couldn’t tell you which one, but I’m about 90% sure that it was in one of them. If I’m wrong on that comparison — which is a real possibility — I’m sure the same twist is found in other survival movies of this nature. I can get over an obvious twist. The issue is that you’ll immediately take one side of the twist.
There’s also a subplot involving Becky’s father (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that doesn’t evolve much further than the simple “estranged dad who is trying his best and ___ learns to love him again” trope. Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t in the film enough to make a lasting impression, which says a lot.
But I don’t want to discredit Grace Caroline Currey, who is the standout of the film. In fairness, there are only like seven actors in the film, but she still stands tall above the rest. Even if the material given to her is lackluster, Caroline Currey gives it her all. She does a great job actually seeming scared shitless whether it’s because of Hunter hanging with one hand for the sake of a photo (more on that in a moment) or because a vulture is flying at her head. It may sound like a given, but think about how many actors are actually good at acting scared without it seeming cheesy.
Virginia Gardner’s character Hunter sums up everything wrong with Gen Z. Since the accident at the beginning of the film, Hunter has become a YouTuber with 60K followers. The way the film portrays her in the early moments, you’d think that they were going the route of exploitation with Hunter. She has several moments where she puts social media before her own (and Becky’s) safety whether it’s when she’s vlogging and driving or taking a picture while holding onto the platform with one hand 2,000 feet up. Even after she takes the photo, she forces Becky to do so as well for undisclosed reasons. I’m sure Gardner is a lovely person, and I know that I’m ragging on this character, but Hunter is unbearable. She treats Becky like she’s the most easily peer-pressured in your friend group but it’s made worse by the fact that Becky is grieving. And it’s not asking her to take a harmless shot, no. She’s constantly asking her to risk her life using emancipation as an incentive.
So yes, as discussed, the lead-up to the main characters being stranded at the top of the tower is breezy and effective. Once they are up there, however, is a different story. You have the typical attempts at getting down whether it be trying to make a phone call, only for the discovery of no signal to be made or trying to use a drone to deliver a message. The funniest of them all has to be when they use the logic of a social media trend, the “egg drop challenge,” to attempt to throw their phone down so it can deliver a message. I’m no physics expert, but I’m going to guess that regardless of what you pack into a Converse shoe, the phone is a goner. This thinking goes a step further later in the film, but I’m not even sure if that would improve the chances of a phone surviving a 2,000-foot fall. But, as it is, we’ll never know how that went because the audience never actually sees the ending. I won’t go into greater detail, but there’s no catharsis with the way it ends.
The bottom line is, Fall has a clever concept and some breathtaking visuals and Grace Caroline Currey puts the film on her back. However, once Becky and Hunter are stuck at the top of the radio tower, the film just treads water. There’s only so much you can do atop a radio tower, and while the 47 Meters Down films are far from perfect — I hardly remember them — I can remember that they had the decency to contain their runtimes to 90 minutes or less. I don’t want to say Fall is too long being that it’s only 107 minutes, but those extra 17 minutes did nothing to enhance the film. There’s only so much that can happen stuck atop a radio tower, and ultimately, this spectacle is not worth the “Oprah shot.”
Lionsgate will release Fall in theaters on August 12.