Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day Twelve: The Fall (2008) - Rank 3.5/5


I picked this film up at the behest of my friend Pat, who insisted that it was the greatest film of 2008. I raised an eyebrow skeptically at such a heartfelt assertion, but nevertheless I was intrigued. The film is certainly impressive and an engaging watch, but I don't know if I could regard it as superior to every movie released over the past year. Perhaps the claim caused me to unintentionally set my expectations too high...

The film is set in a hospital at the dawn of the film era, centered around an injured stunt man, Roy, and a gullible child, Alexandria. Roy spins a fantastic tale about six men out for revenge against the one evil tyrant that wronged them all, and we see the yarn come to life as Alexandria might envision it. The child actress (Cantinca Untaru) seems like a natural for the role, though I'm sure a great deal of her performance was benefited by director Tarsem Singh creating such a practical and fantastic world around her.

The film excels in the categories of art design and cinematography. You can tell that Singh is a director in the vein of Guillermo Del Toro or Yimou Zhang, relying heavily on practical effects and gorgeous visuals to enhance a story. It makes snapping out of the realm of the fantastic all the more bittersweet as Roy presses Alexandria to procure morphine for him in exchange for continuing the tale. Possibly the most breathtaking sequence in the whole film is the opening. The viewer is treated to surreal imagery of a horse being hoisted out of a river to a rail bridge, accompanied by a moving score. Only later do you realize that it's the fall that led to Roy's hospitalization and paralysis.

The overall theme of the film is a loss of innocence, beautifully executed within the real world at the bedside of two invalids and at the hands of a courageous crew in the world of fiction. The film's major flaw is an uneven ending, where the pacing slows drastically, and climax after climax diminishes tension rather than building it. While it isn't enough to ruin the pleasure of watching the film, it keeps it from reaching the heights of perfection that it strives to achieve.

Watch the Trailer

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