Film Review: Walking Out

Reviewing Montana's latest backcountry-survival film. 

Roughneck mountain man Cal meets his 14-year-old son David at the airport. Once a year, they hunt together. David, who lives with his mother in Texas, is more proficient with his phone than a rifle, to the chagrin of his father. Despite the estranged duo’s animosity toward one another, Cal has decided that this year, David will get his first kill—a moose deep in the backcountry of the Crazy Mountains.

David reluctantly agrees, and a few reckless decisions later, a brutal backcountry experience forces them to work together or die. Through stunning drone footage and wildlife close-ups, the Crazies’ majesty is displayed alongside their perils; unethical hunting and ravenous grizzly bears are among the forces that sneak up, physically and spiritually, and pin those who aren’t vigilant. David must grow up overnight.

Twin brothers Andrew and Alex Smith direct this adaptation of David Quammen’s short story. Shot entirely in Montana, Walking Out flips the typical father-son narrative on its head: it is not David who yearns for attention, but Cal. Despite his hardened exterior, he wants more than anything for his son to know who he is, but the only language he speaks is hunting.

At times, hunting brings out the worst between father and son, and Walking Out leaves the audience frustrated by their stubbornness. But as many Montanans know, hunting is purer than the hunters themselves; it is an endeavor that can also bring out the best in people. In this case, it is the catalyst that allows Cal and David to see eye to eye for the first time.

When confronted with dark scenarios, Cal tells David, “You need to know this.” Now, to those who love the outdoors, I say the same in regards to this film. Walking Out hits the emotional nail of father-son bonding squarely on the head in the stunning Crazy Mountain wilderness. By the end, the most callused of mountain men will be wiping their tear-soaked beards.

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