Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The Falling


a film review by Dan Navarro

copyright Dan Navarro 2008

For years now, movie fans have been exposed to allegorical films about the battle between the forces of God and the forces of evil. The devil always gets the best lines, whether played by Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, or Tilda Swinton. A new independent film, The Falling (2007), by first-time director Nicholas Gyeney, continues that tradition.

When the devil (Michael Ayden) confronts the hero, Grayson Reed, in The Falling, he snarls:

“Do you know what God is? He preaches love, faith, and prosperity to his people. But that’s not what he is. He’s a selfish child who wants more. I want to make things the way they should be, but I need your help. Help me to take what is rightfully mine, and I promise you, you can change the world. He’s a tyrant, Grayson. He’s kept people blinded for so long. Help me free people.”

Those words could have been taken from the Gospel according to St. Matthew (4:1-11), in the passage where the devil tries to tempt Jesus in the desert. It is chilling to imagine that the prince of darkness could be so persuasive, though we know he probably does tempt someone in similar fashion, every day.

In Gyeney’s film – which he also wrote, produced, shot, and edited – Grayson turns down Lucifer’s enticements, just as Jesus did. Grayson, played by George Clooney lookalike Scott Gabelein, is a Seattle cop who has no connection to Satan until “The Five” – a group of Archangels – come down from Heaven in search of a warrior to stop the forces of evil.

Gyeney and his crew of actors and technicians – including his mother and his sister – shot The Falling in and around the Seattle area, and used elements of fantasy and mysticism to tell his story.

Visually, the film is gorgeous. Shots of the countryside flora, especially, are a treat for the eyes, captured in lush greens and yellows, probably in the Seattle springtime. The editing, too, is first-rate. My only nit with the look of the film is that frequently, Gyeney seems to be using hand-held cameras, even when the subjects on screen are stationary. If The Falling does good business, perhaps he should invest in a tripod or other steadying device.

Amid all this beauty, we find a world that is “in chaos,” to quote from a speech given by a spiritual leader in the first reel. Soon, we meet The Five, sent by a Higher Power to locate a human capable of standing up to the devil himself. Of course, Grayson has no idea what he’s in for. When he first meets their leader, the Archangel Michael (Rory Colin Fretland), he suspects the guy is wacko.

Grayson lives comfortably with his kid sister in the tidy home left to them by their parents, does his job by day, and relaxes by night. He doesn’t go to church, though the local parish priest (Donovan Marley) tries to coax him and his sister Kristy (Tellier Killaby) to rejoin the congregation.

The entreaties of their religious community go for naught, until the day Grayson realizes The Five are real, and their mission is to enlist him as a warrior for the Lord. This story could have been spun off from one of Frank Peretti’s apocalyptic novels, and the fact that Peretti was raised in the Seattle area makes one wonder if he had a hand in the planning of this film.

You may read reviews of The Falling that criticize some of the acting as “amateurish.” The fact that almost everyone in the cast is appearing in their first film may contribute to that view, but I found both the villain and the hero thoroughly compelling. Gabelein and Ayden put real intensity into their roles, and although I tried to catch them “acting,” I couldn’t.

There is some bloodshed in this film, but the part that I found particularly disturbing has nothing to do with physical violence, but rather the spiritual kind. In the creepiest scene, the devil tries to seduce Kristy – who knows nothing about his real identity – and actually gets to first base. Were it not for her brother’s timely intervention, Satan may have hit one out of the park.

Undoubtedly, The Falling will play better before an audience of true believers than before agnostics. Hopefully, it will reach those who are aware of the dangers posed by a secularist view of our earthly home… and open the eyes of those who aren’t.