Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Scott Mann
scr Jonathan Frank, Scott Mann
prd James Harris, Brianna Lee Johnson, Scott Mann, Christian Mercuri
with Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mason Gooding, Jasper Cole, Darrell Dennis, Bamm Ericsen, Julia Mitchell, Evie Mann, Joseph Mann, Nick Lynes, Branden Currey
release US 12.Aug.22,
UK 2.Sep.22
22/US 1h47

currey morgan gooding

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Shamelessly playing on its vertiginous premise, this adventure thriller keeps us in a state of nerve-wracking suspense right from the start. We're so frazzled that we never mind that many of the scares are gratuitous, the filmmaking is painfully obvious, and the continuity is more than a little iffy. This is a nonstop exercise in the most basic fear, and it's feels almost exhilarating when we survive it.
After her husband (Gooding) dies falling down a seemingly bottomless rock face, Becky (Currey) spends a year using booze and drugs to cope with grief. Her father (Morgan) can't lure her from this funk, but fearless best pal Hunter (Gardner) proposes an epic climb to get her adrenaline pumping: scaling a disused 2,000-foot TV tower in the middle of the desert. Then after ascending the rickety ladder with its rusty bolts, they are trapped at the very top. And they're up above phone coverage, so Hunter's hordes of social media followers are out of reach.
Filmmaker Mann shoots the film for maximum impact, using severe angles and dizzying depth-of-field to depict how high these women are above the ground, then putting them in constant peril. Sometimes this involves terrifying rope descents or dangling by a few fingers. And the smaller slip-ups are just as nerve-shattering. It's sharply edited to continuously build tension, often with a kick of black humour. And there's also plenty of corny melodrama to add to the feeling that fate may not be on their side.

Currey takes the focal role as the resilient Becky, who is struggling to regain her footing in life, as it were. Her internal journey is involving, even if it's rather carefully scripted, and she has terrific chemistry with Gardner, as the more colourfully energetic Hunter. The contrast between them is pointed, which makes their interaction engaging and sometimes a bit prickly. And while the big adventure and internal journey are carefully plotted, it's the less-deliberate elements that keep us rooting for them.

Indeed, nothing here is terribly subtle. Each twist in the story is carefully telegraphed in advance with rather obvious direction. And things like rucksacks worn over just one shoulder or vanishing altogether continuously niggle. Perhaps these smaller details are jarring for effect, because this is certainly a movie that keeps the audience on edge. It's a rare movie that maintains such a high level of breathtaking suspense. Watching it on an Imax screen would probably leave you a quivering wreck.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jun.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall