Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sundance with Abe: Walking Out

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fourth time. I’ll be seeing as many movies as I can and offering reviews throughout the week.

Walking Out
Directed by Alex and Andrew Smith
U.S. Dramatic Competition

Where a person lives can make a big difference in how they perceive the world and what they do every day. Urban and rural settings can look nothing alike, and each person’s decision on how to adapt to their surroundings and to take advantage of modern technologies also influences the way they go about their lives. A hunter’s philosophy in mountainous Montana is definitely different from a suburban Texan teenager’s outlook, and putting the two together will evidently result in a clashing of behaviors, as it does when two such characters are united in the film “Walking Out.”

David (Josh Wiggins) is a fourteen-year-old kid who lives most of the year with his mom in Texas. At the start of the film, he lands on a small plane in Big Sky, Montana, where his father, Cal (Matt Bomer), picks him up. Sporting a cowboy hat and a hunter’s attitude, Cal describes the adventures that await them over the next few snowy days. They will ascend a mountain so that David can make his first kill and bring home his dinner. As the snow continues to fall and intensify, unforeseen circumstances in the wild cause troubling consequences that threaten the ability of father and son to make it back to safety.

This is an extraordinarily intimate film that mostly features just three characters – David, Cal, and Cal’s father (Bill Pullman), seen in remembered flashbacks as Cal recounts his memories of his first hunt when he was his son’s age. The setting of Big Sky, home to co-directors Alex and Andrew Smith, is enormously effective, presenting a vast landscape of heights and scenery that, while Cal is able to distinguish one spot from another, looks all the same to David and to audiences. This is an arduous adventure movie, one that offers up the intensity of nature and the wild as its driving force.

Bomer, best known for his affable, charming role on USA’s “White Collar,” undergoes a complete transformation here as the single-minded Cal, who simply wants to teach his son how to be a hunter and to be able to provide for himself. While he clearly loves his son, it’s far from a gentle embrace, and even when he does offer a compliment, it mainly circles back to excitement about a shared accomplishment related to the hunt. Wiggins, who starred in the Sundance hit “Hellion,” delivers an equally compelling and mature performance, and the two do a tremendous job of inhabiting their harsh environment and pushing through to survive no matter what the trip entails. The film utilizes its actors very well, and this strong, suspenseful drama is a completely captivating journey.


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