Fall. M, 107 minutes. 4 stars
Have a fear of heights? A fear of falling? Do tense situations give you sweaty palms and anxiety?
If so, this new low-budget but incredibly well-made thriller about two climbers trapped on a telecommunications tower is going to be as horrific to sit through as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Salo might be to others.
For me, it triggered every anxiety I have about heights, to the point where I had to stand up and walk around a handful times in the screening, to walk off that anxiety.
Since losing her husband in a climbing accident, Becky (Grace Fulton) has been falling apart, binge-drinking to the point where her dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) calls in her old climbing partner and best friend Hunter (Ginny Gardner).
In the year since the accident, Hunter has become an internet sensation, shooting more and more elaborately dangerous videos, and her plan to pull Becky from her internalised trauma is to enlist her in the ultimate climbing challenge.
Despite all common sense, the pair scale an abandoned radio communications tower - over 600 metres tall - to film one of Hunter's Xtreme climbing videos.
But Hunter has overlooked the tower's physical condition, and while the pair make it to the top, the pressure their climb puts on rusted hinges and bolts is too much, and half of the structure's ladder crashes to the ground.
The women are stranded, their mobile phones have no signal, civilisation is a long way away, and the intact part of the structure, with ladder still in place, is far below the length of climbing rope they have with them.
The viewer has to suspend their disbelief to get into this film entirely - would two professional climbers really overlook all of the conditional elements that Becky and Hunter do? - but if you can let that go, it doesn't take long to get suckered wholly into the filmmakers' clever building of tension. It's the climbing disaster film version of the horror-film heroine going outside in the dark to check on a strange noise.
Director Scott Mann and his team spent an unbelievable $3 million on this production but it looks 10 times that budget, managing to cleverly shoot with a mix of digital cameras and still afford quality CGI to augment their clever framing and physical effects.
His screenplay, penned with Jonathan Frank, is fairly linear, just this Herculean journey for the two women, battling inner demons and a physically impossible situation.
The cinematography by the single-named MacGregor (like Cher or Madonna) is fairly spectacular, the movement is constant, impressive considering most of the action takes place in a square metre of platform.
Some years ago, when the kids were younger, we went on an adventurous family holiday in the Grampians, including booking a day of abseiling. The youngest had a particularly volatile temper and got so upset that his brother could climb a cliff that he couldn't, he threw himself backwards off the ledge as part of his tantrum. Now, he was tied to all of us by rope so he couldn't actually throw himself off the cliff as he planned, but what was a small fear of heights in myself became a chasm of anxiety from that moment forward. And I would have to say that I felt watching Fall was on par with that moment, only instead of a single moment, it is extended through 107 minutes.
I'm not saying this to detract you from watching it, dear reader, but to encourage you to take the plunge, so to speak.
So often, you can sit through a whole film and not feel a single emotion. Here's a film where you feel all of them. The gamut. A visceral heart-pounder that certainly gives you your money's worth. And a heart palpitation.
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