Walking Out | Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith | October 6th, 2017
Lately, films about surviving the elements have had star-studded casts (The Mountain Between Us), and have usually been vehicles for Oscar nominations or huge praise (The Revenant). Walking Out takes an entirely different approach. It’s a quiet film that has more in common with Into the Wild than anything else. Matt Bomer stars as Cal, a ranch owner living in Montana. When his son David (Josh Wiggins) comes to visit, Cal decides to take him on a hunting trip. Cal and his father Clyde (played in flashbacks by Bill Pullman) bonded over hunting, and Cal hopes that he can do the same with his estranged son.
During their hunt, Cal is seriously injured in a bear attack, and it’s now up to David to save them both. Walking Out has a fairly straightforward plot, but the actors and the cinematography go a long way with making this film memorable. The entire film has only a few actors in it, and Bomer gives possibly the best performance of his career as Cal. His son David is also played wonderfully by Josh Wiggins. Both of them have a natural chemistry where it was easy to believe that they were father and son. It’s implied that it’s been a year or years since the two of them have seen each other. It makes for better drama later on, when David and Cal begin to open up to one another.
Cal puts on his tough cowboy hat early on in the film, which makes David feel unwelcome. Once Cal’s life rests in David’s hands, the two of them start to talk through their issues, and Cal begins to open up about his own past. Bomer and Pullman’s flashback scenes are a highlight here. Pullman teaches his son about the art and respect that should go into hunting. Cal tries to pass along this respect and knowledge to David, which turns out pretty useful for the situation they find themselves in.
Walking Out is otherwise a quiet film. There are many gorgeous shots of the Montana mountains and terrain that rival anything in The Revenant. It’s a small film about the bond that forms when a father and son are put into a terrible situation. It’s not for everyone, and some might even find it slow or boring. I thought it was a moving and ultimately harrowing experience. It genuinely captures the fear of being stranded and lost in the wilderness alone. I went into this expecting a story about two people overcoming a bear attack. What I got was a story about two people attempting to just overcome the elements.
The musical score and cinematography are quite beautiful here, and the performances are all fairly great. Walking Out would have benefited from having just a few more scenes of characterization or bonding between father and son. It’s also unclear as to why David’s parents split up in the first place, not that it really matters all that much. This movie is about David and Cal’s struggle, but it could have been better with some extra padding. The story goes in a direction you might not expect at first, but it adds to the high tension of the film.
Overall, Walking Out is an enjoyable yet stressful experience with an ending that will hit you hard.