Eight years ago Tarsem directed "The Cell," starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio as a sadistic serial killer. "The Cell" could be described as Freddy Krueger on an acid trip. "The Cell" featured cruelty inside one's dangerous mind. Nightmarish scenes featured organ grinders and large intestines, Tarsem also created a color pallet of bright visuals that paid tribute to artist like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Luis Brunnel. Yet, beyond the visuals and Ravi Shankar imitation music, the plot for "The Cell" was routine Penny Dreadful.
In direct contrast to "The Cell," Tarsem's latest endeavor, "The Fall," is a complete motion picture that the whole family can watch together. "The Fall" opens with the chords of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No.7, Op.92 Allegretto. As the opening credits are presented in sepia tone cinematography, one witnesses cowboys under a bridge in a river. When the cinematography shifts from sepiatone to color stock, the audience learns that the cowboy is really a Stuntman (Lee Pace) who has just broken his back.
Paralyzed from his fall, the Stuntman recovers in a Los Angeles Hospital during the 1920s. He meets a little immigrant girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru, a young actress from Romania). Alexandria is recovering from a broken arm that she suffered while picking oranges with her migrant family. Bored, Alexandria strikes up a friendship with the Stuntman, who weaves an incredible story of action, adventure and romance.
The stuntman tells the tale of five heroes and their battles with the evil Governor Odious. The narrative covers all corners of the globe and involves all four elements of geology; earth, wind and fire. As Alexandria becomes entranced by his tale of daredevil heroism, the stuntman has alternative motives that corrupts the innocence of the broken armed migrant worker.
In a room full of jaded South Florida critics, it refreshing hear a community laugh, cry and cheer a movie, something I really did not hear while watching "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Chrystal Skull." Filmed on an epic scale in twenty five countries, it is the improvised performances of Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru that make the story of the Stuntman and the little migrant girl real and truthful.
The Stuntman concocts an exaggerated story that is conventional fun. The heroic bandit (Lee Pace in a dual role) has all the trappings of a serial matinee action hero. His colleagues are even more exaggerated and include representatives from the Arabic, English, Indian and Italian Cultures. Each character is given a moment to shine with over the top heroics. Being a reflection of the Stuntman's fragile mind, these lovable characters undergo pain when the Stuntman suffers. From the Little Immigrant's perspective; this would be akin to skinning Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.
Watching "The Fall" is like going on an epic journey. As the Odyssey progresses between darkness and light, there are plenty of gorgeous visuals with strong colorful cinematography. "The Fall" concludes neatly with a simple examination between the concepts of fantasy and reality. The ending is satisfying and sent chills down this film columnists spine. Go see "The Fall," it is one of the best movies released this year.