DUBAI: Scott Mann’s survival film ‘Fall,’ currently in theaters in the Middle East, is undeniably thrilling. It would be almost impossible for any competent filmmaker not to make it so because of its premise: Two young female climbers stuck 2,000 feet above the ground on a small platform at the top of a rickety, remote TV tower in the middle of the desert, allowing for genuinely stomach-churning, vertigo-inducing aerial shots.
The two women, Hunter (Virginia Gardner) and Becky (Grace Caroline Curry), are there to scatter the ashes of Becky’s late husband Dan, who died one year previously — a year that Becky has mostly spent drowning her sorrows in a bottle and ruining her relationship with her father James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a cameo that must have him questioning his agent’s competence) — when the three of them were climbing a mountain. That’s the scene that opens the movie, giving Mann another location for majestic, sweeping shots that maybe this overlong movie could have done without. Most of the flimsy backstory could have been covered as the two best friends walk through the desert to, and climb, the tower and little would have been lost.
They’re also at the tower to drum up further content for Hunter’s social-media fans — she’s made a name for herself online as a danger junkie with a devil-may-care attitude that Becky’s lines in the clunky script make clear isn’t the ‘real’ Hunter.
Once they’re up on the platform after a disastrous ladder collapse, we learn that maybe the ‘real’ Hunter wasn’t such a good friend to Becky after all, as Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank introduce the first of their not-that-clever twists. There are a couple more of these and all of them are unoriginal.
As the lack of cell-phone coverage, food, and foresight takes its toll (not to mention hungry buzzards attracted by the gash in Becky’s leg), the climbers’ situation becomes increasingly dire. As does the script. No one can question Gardner and Curry’s physical commitment to the shoot, but, in acting terms, there just isn’t enough for them to work with. The lack of drama in their reactions just doesn’t ring true.
There’s another gripping set-piece when Hunter attempts to retrieve their water from a satellite dish just over 50 feet below their platform and it’s these scenes that — maybe — make “Fall” worth seeing on the big screen. You’ll definitely be entertained, or at least panicked. But whether the other 80 minutes or so are worth the payoff is up for debate.