Fall (Review): How to Do a Suspense Story Right

My expectations were minimal, but they were met. I’m happy to share my thoughts on Fall. So read ahead for those!

Becky– a former rock climber– hides away with depression after the death of her husband. Becky’s best friend, Hunter, convinces Becky to do one last climb– up a 2000ft tower in the desert– and dump the husband’s ashes to gain closure. So they make their climb, only for the tower’s ladder to break as they reach the top. Becky and Hunter must get inventive with their limited supplies if they are to make it off this tower alive. But any wrong move could mean a nasty fall…

My most scathing note up top: Fall‘s first act kinda sucked… The intro was cool, Becky and her father were good, and they established Becky’s poor mental health well. I’d call it inoffensively average up to that point.

Then enter Hunter (Virginia Gardner). My goodness did I find this girl annoying at first! She acts like a typical shallow influencer… because she is one. And my cringe-level increased the more time Hunter and Becky spent together. Their conversations weren’t technically bad, but I hated how they’d talk. They use “internet speak” a lot. You know what I mean, right? That weird “trying way to hard to be cool” kinda slang with an unappealing dash of arrogance?

But don’t rule out Fall too early, because it gets WAY better once the girls reach the tower. They get down to business, focus up, and mostly drop their personas. Fall effectively shows how survival instinct over-rides that “fake” public face we all put forth to an extent. The more dangerous things get the more real Hunter and Becky become (though Becky becomes “real” sooner, because she’s anxious).

I even came to like Hunter by the end! Yeah, she was still an influencer, and did stupid things to appeal to her following… but that’s also realistic. Her arc is all about how fake she is online, and how she wishes to show her more genuine self. Said self is brave, resourceful, and keeps refreshingly cool under pressure. I love how Hunter’s calm logic contrasted Becky’s overt panic. This choice allowed Fall‘s characters to feel distinctive.

Becky was someone for whom I could root throughout Fall. I sympathized with her story: getting peer pressured by her braver friend into exiting their comfort zone. That’s all too familiar for me… Becky’s dynamic with Hunter scarily mimics mine with my best friend (although we’ve never done anything THIS dangerous for thrills).

Becky earns a satisfying character arc: a believable transition from depressed recluse to emotionally hardened survivalist. Her experiences force her character growth in increments. I also must attribute the acting talents of Grace Fulton to demanding my empathy for the character.

Fall is one of the most intense pieces entertainment I’ve watched this year! Rarely am I anxious for the duration of films, but Fall managed to trigger such a response. I was in constant anticipation of the surely unavoidable “fall” (titled). Almost every moment which tried to make me cringe or wince succeeded. Fall had me exactly where it wanted me at all times.

That said: my tension subsided the longer Fall ran. It was always present, but each new stunt phased me less than the last. That’s not an indictment of the film-making so much as the law of diminishing returns. If anything, I appreciate that Fall didn’t over-stay its welcome.

Grace Fulton as Becky in Fall.
(Photo Credit: Lionsgate Films)

Much of Fall‘s tension comes from the girls’ lack of useful supplies for their predicament. So the story forces its characters to be inventive. The girls even reference MacGyver, which is a little on the nose, but it’s funny. Would Becky and Hunter’s solutions work in a real life scenario? I couldn’t tell you. But nothing they tried was SO improbable that I decried it in the moment.

Also– I can’t believe Fall managed to surprise me. There were a couple plot points which came out of left field, and some left me floored! I’ve got to give the writers props for an especially sneaky set-up and perfect payoff.

I always respect films which manage to pull off (largely) one-area settings. Most films in this vein are fascinating examples of film-making craft, or dull slogs. Fall is no masterpiece, but I’ll happily call it well-made! Its story remained riveting for over 2/3 of its runtime and left me impressed with its execution.

You don’t hear me say a lot: but this film had convincing special effects! There were, admittedly, many shots which I safely assumed were computer generated. But most of Fall‘s effects entirely convinced my eye.

Fall leaves its audience with a good message. Of course there are less extreme story scenarios which could have made the same point, but that’s how movies are. Gotta love ’em. I found the “point” empowering, despite the occasionally brutal presentation.

Here’s a fun film fact, if you didn’t know: PG-13 movies are only allowed one F-bomb in their run-time. Any more and their rating jumps to an R. So it’s an unwritten rule that movies need to make their one cuss count!

Fall used their F-bomb right at the start, which made later attempts at swear words unintentionally hilarious. I could all but see the shackles on the film-makers as they realized their options were limited. They clearly WANTED more and worse swearing, but had to tone it down for the censors. This is one of those critiques where you’d never notice unless you were looking for it specifically…

Fall gave me everything I wanted: a tight story, mostly set on the tower, with lots of suspenseful moments. It was well filmed, acted, and managed to surprise me. My flaws with this film stem from its weak first act, which failed to impress.

Fall perfectly met my expectations and I’m pleased to say it’s Pretty Darn Good.

What’s the craziest death-defying experience you’ve ever chosen to have? What did you think of Fall? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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