After creating the visually stunning but emotionally un-engaging the Cell in 2000, it was hard to say exactly which way director Tarsem Singh was going to go with his whole style over substance approach. Thankfully, he has addressed some of these problems with his latest film, the visually stunning The Fall.
Set in a hospital on the outskirts of 1920's Los Angeles, the film tells the story of injured movie stuntman Roy (Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies), who befriends a little girl Alexandria (an amazingly assured performance from Catinca Untara). Both of them are recovering from falls, Roy from a stunt that went horribly wrong whilst trying to impress a woman, and Alexandria from a fall from a tree that left her with a broken arm. In an attempt to win the little girls trust, Roy begins to tell her fantastical story about five outlaws and their battle against the evil Governor Odious, a story that mirrors Roy's own life and his failed romance, but Alexandria's vivid imagination gives the story a life of its own, as people from around the hospital begin to appear in the story in much the same vein as the Wizard of Oz. However, Roy has his own hidden agenda for befriending the little girl, an agenda that soon becomes all to clear to the viewer, but unfortunately not to Alexandria.
The film is a breathtaking spectacle of lush, rich imagery combined with a surprisingly engaging story. Much has been made of the images contained within the film, and there is no denying the fact that they are stunning, with sequences set in some of the most exotic and beautiful locations in 25 countries around the world. With images that are akin to living paintings, the film is undeniably stunning to look at, with several scenes being almost unreal (a particular favourite is a sequence in the governor's castle featuring his heavily armoured guards and a courtyard full of steps...incredibly gorgeous to look at).
However, let's not overlook the simple yet very engaging story. Pace and Untara strike up a gentle chemistry that really works as the story flits back and forth between fantasy and reality, with some nice, gentle humour as reality and fantasy bleed into one another, but finally Roy's true motives are revealed and the story takes a darker turn as Alexandria begins to see the story and real life as one and the same thing. Whilst this film is undoubtedly more style than substance what substance there is goes a long way to making this a very enjoyable visual epic with a nice little morality tale at its heart.