Music video/commercial/film director Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) channels “The Princess Bride” fairy-tale-within-a-fantasy concept, giving it his own baroque twist.
Set in 1915 in Los Angeles, a five year-old child, Alexandra (Catinca Untaru), is in the hospital with a broken arm, having fallen from a tree while picking oranges with her immigrant parents. Exuding guileless charm, Alexandra befriends Roy Walker (Lee Pace), a suicidal silent-movie stuntman whose legs are as paralyzed as his broken heart. In exchange for undercover deliveries of morphine, he tells her a tantalizing story of love and revenge.
The dazzling, delirious tale – mirroring Walker’s real-life, ill-fated love triangle – involves a ragtag band of heroes, led by the Black Bandit (Pace again) with Alexandra as his daughter. There’s also an African warrior (Marcus Wesley), an Indian swami (Julian Beach), an explosives expert (Robin Smith) and a young adventurer named Charles Darwin (Leo Bill). Their nemesis is dastardly Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone), who has imprisoned them. And, of course, there’s the beautiful Princess Evelyn (Justine Waddell).
Cleverly utilizing a “Wizard of Oz”/”Pan’s Labyrinth” gimmick, Singh makes sure their faces are all recognizable from the hospital environs where they’re patients, staff and others. The obtuse screenplay by Singh, Dan Gilroy and Nico Soultanakis, based on Valerie Petrov’s 1981 script for “Yo Ho Ho,” lacks tonal consistency which, in turn, prevents the audience from becoming emotionally involved in either the characters or the outcome.
Because the vibrant – and violent – symbolic imagery is what’s most memorable, considerable credit goes to cinematographer Colin Watkinson, film editor Robert Duffy, costumer Eiko Ishioka, and production designer Ged Clarke, who toiled on location in 18 countries. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Fall” is a sumptuous 6. It’s visually intriguing but often incoherent.