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Directed by Alex and Andrew Smith and based on the short story of the same, Walking Out is a boring, lifeless and underwritten trek in the wilderness.
David (Hillary Swank lookalike Josh Wiggins) visits his father Cal (Matt Bomer) in rural Montana and the two go on a hunting trip together. Their father-son bonding is disrupted by a brutal encounter with a bear that puts their survival skills to the test.
The idea of estranged father and son trying to reconnect in the wilderness shows promise but Walking Out doesn’t really do much with it. The main problem is that the relationship between David and Cal is defined in terms that are either too broad or too vague to really pin down. They’re estranged, sure, but Walking Out isn’t quite eager to explore them or their relationship much more beyond that. As such, it’s very difficult to connect with them emotionally.
A survival story where you don’t particularly care if the characters survive or not is already facing an uphill battle and Walking Out doesn’t put much up of a fight. After the initial encounter with the bear, there’s little excitement or tension to be found in the movie. Most of it consists of David carrying his wounded father on his back, occasionally interspersed with flashbacks of a young Cal hunting alongside his father Clyde (Bill Pullman).
The tone is somber and reflective, but there’s almost nothing really that interesting to reflect on. There simply isn’t enough depth to these characters or the situations they face. As a result, the attempt at drawing meaningful parallels between the past and present mostly falls flat. The closest Walking Out gets to meaningful is with a symbolic exchange of hats.
It is a beautifully shot film that really highlights the cold, harrowing beauty of rural Montana. The flashbacks serve as a welcome splash of color that keeps the impact of the visuals from stagnating. The gorgeous landscapes make it pretty to look at but do little to liven up the dull plot and uninteresting characters.
Performance-wise, everyone pulls their weight, but no one really stands out. A rugged, weary Matt Bomer does fine work but spends a good chunk of the movie being carried around. Bill Pullman is criminally underused. Wiggins gives a good performance yet has little to work with.
Overall, Walking Out is just boring and forgettable. It’s short, but plodding and utterly fails at being both a harrowing tale of survival and an introspective character study.