In some parts of America, hunting with your father is a given. In England it can be difficult to comprehend the idea of trudging up a mountain to shoot some birds or moose with your old man – the whole idea feels very cinematic, very Last of the Mohicans or The Deer Hunter. It’s no surprise then that there have been plenty of films over the years that have used big game hunting as a central part of their story, most recently Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant in 2015. Walking Out is the latest in a noble tradition of American films made about the subject, and in many ways bears similarities to Iñárritu’s film, but unfortunately, can’t replicate that which made The Revenant such a success.
Taking place in the present day, Walking Out sees fourteen-year-old David travel from his home in Texas to spend time with his father Cal, hunting moose in rural Montana. The pair struggle to connect, having little in common and both being people of very few words, but Cal’s determined to teach his son how to hunt, even despite David’s initial protestations that he doesn’t want to kill a moose. They depart for the mountains, but things take a turn for the worse when they’re attacked by a grizzly bear, and Cal is gravely injured miles from their nearest shot at help. See? Told you it was similar to The Revenant – but without Tom Hardy with a dodgy hat and even dodgier accent.
Like The Revenant, the film looks spectacular. Shot on location in the Big Sky state, the location really does the heavy-lifting for the film, appearing vast and desolate and beautiful, the sort of place where humans have no claim to the land. You’re transported to the beautiful snow-covered wilderness, but unfortunately, that’s where the film’s appeal ends. The father-son bonding between Cal and David never really gets underway, despite the best efforts of Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins. Bomer gives one of his most accomplished performances yet, ditching his charming, pretty-boy reputation to play a brooding mountain man, but Cal still feels one-note despite his efforts. Wiggins is okay as David, though fairly unremarkable to watch, and never seems to put his full energy into his performance.
Therein lies the core problem with Walking Out is that you just don’t care about the characters – you don’t care about David, and you don’t care if Cal lives or dies. There’s something cold about the whole affair, and it’s not just the Montana snow. Add to this a remarkably unspectacular ending, and Walking Out becomes a bitter disappointment. As an advertisement for the Montana tourist board, it works well, but there’s just not enough character to give the film heart.