The Fall is one of the most beautiful films you will ever lay your eyes on. Sometimes you only wish its emotional punch could live up to its dizzying potential.
This is one of the hardest movies to review that I’ve ever seen. The criticisms I have of it are not so much that it was bad in any way, but rather that, given the stunning imagery and fascinating premise, it could have been better.
The story is this: a crippled stuntman is left in the hospital after performing a dangerous stunt. He had a girlfriend who left him for another man, a fact which may or may not be related to the fact that he is crippled (maybe if I watch this movie ten times I’ll figure out the answer to that one). He is very depressed, and wants to get morphine pills to kill himself, so he befriends a little girl and tells her a fantastical story about a band of six intrepid heroes who set off to kill the evil Governor Odious, who I’m assuming is General Grievous’ cousin or something. He refuses to tell the girl (named Alexandria) the end of the story until she brings him his suicide pills.
It’s a pretty sweet story, though I admit I needed to glance at Wikipeda a few times to make sure I was following it right (I sort of missed the part he was a stuntman, you see). It never is clear in the movie how exactly Roy (the stuntman) injured himself, whether it was intentional, or an accident. Or maybe someone mumbled it in the background and I jsut missed it.
To be fair, an awful lot of the dialogue in the hospital scenes (which take up about a third of the movie, the other two-thirds focusing on the quest to kill Governor Odious) is mumbled in the background. This is because The Fall is told from Victoria’s perpsective. We see and hear what she sees and hears. So if, for instance, she is sitting in the hallway between two rooms, we hear both of the conversations from both rooms at the same time, playing on top of one another. While this is an interesting technique, I feel like one viewing may not be enough to gather everything that’s going on in this scene. The opening scene, which sort of maybe is supposed to set everything up, while artistic, leaves you feeling more confused than enlightened.
The real problem with the Fall isn’t this stuff. It’s something bigger. It’s that one of our main characters, Roy, doesn’t feel deep enough. So much of what works in the movie hinges on the relationship between Roy and Alexandria. Yet Roy feels a little one-note. We want to root for him to get better, but we don’t fully get to know him, which makes it hard to empathize with him. He is sad and suicidal, almost to the exclusion of all other emotions, and we can’t help but want to tell him “get over yourself.” The funny thing is that he has a pretty legitimate reason for suicide–being a crippled stuntman. But his inability to ever walk seems less important to him than the fact that his girlfriend dumped him. Maybe if we knew a little more about this girlfriend, we might sympathize with him more, but as it is, the film’s central struggle (Roy needing to learn to move on with his life) falls a bit flat since we aren’t exactly sure what he is moving on from.
Still, the story mostly works, and even if it didn’t, it has to be said that The Fall is one of the few movies that would be worth watching for the visuals alone. It’s a testament to what you can accomplish without the use of CGI if you really put your mind to it. The fantasy story-scapes in this film are every bit as arresting as the computer-generated Pandora in Avatar. The emptiness of these Indian cities and the vast deserts (apart from the heroes and the villains, there is almost no one there at all) adds a surreal quality to every shot. The music manages to be ethereal, and whoever chose Beethoven’s 7th Symphony as the main theme was a genius. In short, no other movie captures comes so close to capturing the sensation of dreaming (no, not even you, Inception). So, while it could have been more, it still is an absorbing and entrancing piece of filmmaking.