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‘Fall’ is a dizzying thriller with a stripped-down storyline

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(2 stars)

If sweaty palms were the only measure of a movie’s greatness, then thriller “Fall,” which centers on two young women trapped atop a rickety, disused 2,000-foot-tall TV tower in the middle out of nowhere – on a platform not much wider than a coffee table for two – can be something of a masterpiece. And while the dialogue is quite spartan, including numerous iterations of “Are you okay?” and “It’s okay,” punctuated by periodic expletives, the cinematography is suitably, almost radically acrophobic.

Maybe that’s the wrong word. Acrophobia is the irrational the fear of heights and terror deliberately instilled in the audience for about an hour and 45 minutes by director Scott Mann (“Final Score”), reunited with his frequent co-writer Jonathan Frank, makes perfect sense. Who in their right mind would climb such a thing?

Well, Hunter (Virginia Gardner) would. She’s a professional daredevil who goes by the nickname Danger D on social media, where she’s monetized her amateur drone videos and selfies, shot under jaw-dropping circumstances, into a career of sorts. For his latest misadventure, Hunter recruits his best friend Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) to help Becky overcome her devastation at the death of Becky’s husband in a mountain climbing accident a year ago. (The film opens with this tragic prologue, so Becky’s trauma — amplified by the idiocy of Hunter’s plan — seems entirely appropriate.)

Hunter and Becky are meant to be expert climbers, attuned to their surroundings with the heightened awareness of true athletes. But as they climb this deadly trap, they don’t seem to notice all the rusty, rattling rivets that are about to come loose from the ladder they’re climbing – and in one case get lost, falling in front of Becky’s head. Miguel López Ximénez de Olaso (the cinematographer known professionally as MacGregor) certainly pays attention to those details, in a way that makes “Fall” feel like a hyper-coaster of a movie. : it increases the tension to an almost unbearable degree, before unleashing it in a torrent of nausea and nervousness.

Many people pay big bucks to endure the kind of thrill rides that make them wish they were back on solid ground. “Fall” does the same thing, but with the added benefit of being entirely indirect. Keep telling yourself, “It’s just a stupid movie.”

PG-13. In neighborhood theatres. Contains bloody imagery, intense peril and foul language. 107 minutes.

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