Walking Out popped up on my radar as I’m a fan of one of it’s stars, Matt Bomer, so I chose it over a few other options. I knew the basic summary going in but that was about it which is always the best way to see a film so I was ready to go for a drama. I don’t really have much else to say on that though so let’s get right to our review.
The story follows Cal (Bomer) who is a Montana rancher who lives alone and his son David (Josh Wiggins) who lives in Texas with his mother and only visits once a year. David is there to go hunting with his father, something special to Cal but David is a little mixed on, even when he’s told it will be their first time hunting big game in the form of a bull moose. As they climb the mountain to hunt it snow begins to fall and they run afoul of a bear that leads to trouble for the pair. What started as a bonding journey turns into a challenge to get off the mountain alive.
I’m going to go ahead and say the biggest issue here and that is that my description was as vague as I could keep it, but that kind of is all there is to the film. The way they achieve that is by really dragging it out, like severely, to the point that I was bored of them building tension and checked my watch in the theater and we were an hour in without any real conflict beyond their relationship. It also doesn’t help that the score to the film sets a very heavy tone from the first scene that really didn’t seem to fit the scene and almost tried to force tension through minor cords. Quite honestly I frequently was asking myself when something was going to happen, and when it finally did I almost didn’t care and really just wanted the characters to be smarter. The film relies heavily on it’s scenery and gorgeous cinematography of this mountain they are on, but it just pads out my time.
I do think the acting was fine though, with the leads playing well enough off each other. Bomer really does a good job here as his character certainly conveys that feel of a man that just wants to connect with his son, but also is a little unsure how to when he doesn’t share his interest. There are times when it doesn’t always sell, but he really tells a great deal through his expressions and holds himself well as this capable hunter. Wiggins does a solid job as well, but there are a few times where it felt like there should be more from him. However I do feel that could be a bit of an issue with the script or directing on how he should try to come off more rebellious from his father for just a few minutes. The film also features Bill Pullman as David’s grandfather in flashbacks, primarily of him teaching young Cal to hunt, and he does a good job being a kind (grand)fatherly figure here but he also is used sparingly so there isn’t much more I can say. Overall, for a film really just about 2 characters its cast does a good job.
I honestly do feel that a lot of the issues with the film fall with some uneven direction and editing. There are far too many times that the film just spends a few minutes showing off scenery instead of spending time with our characters and our story. There’s a bit of a thing made about David’s cell phone that his Dad doesn’t like that then leads to it being a focus of ringing back at the house while they’re on the mountain (done with echoing sound as they continue to show more scenery of the mountain) and I have to say it frustratingly doesn’t actually contribute to the plot. I don’t like to harp on one thing, but this scene was honestly just very annoying because it only really fits if it’s a showing of the outside world looking for them, but as it doesn’t pay off that anyone was its instead its just another excuse to show scenery and do some sound mixing with the ringtone. Also, there’s a line earlier that the phone won’t get reception at the ranch that this totally ignores.
Ok, that’s my last point about the phone I swear. But honestly, its little inconsistencies like this and the fact that they use every excuse to cut away to more scenery shots that it just seems like padding it out. I’m not familiar with directors Andrew and Alex Smith’s other work, so I can’t say it this is truly on them, but this film was only 90 minutes and I honestly felt most of those 90 minutes. For a harrowing tale of survival against the harsh elements that is a real issue and honestly leads me to be unable to recommend the film.
Beautiful scenery and fine performances unfortunately can’t save this film from feeling long and unnecessarily drawn out. There are better options both at SXSW and just in the genre of surviving against nature to choose from,