This battle-for-survival-type drama treads familiar territory and offers some warmth but never seems quite as powerful as it should be, and winds up a little emotionally snowbound.
Buckingham-born twin-brother co-directors, co-producers and co-writers Alex and Andrew J. Smith (adapting David Quammen’s short story) gravitate to tales of compromised masculinity (the sporty The Slaughter Rule, the also-in-the-wild drama Winter In The Blood), and this is all about flawed blokes, flawed relationships and flawed families, which all tends to add up to a slightly flawed film.
The stripped-back narrative has 14 year old David (Josh Wiggins) flying from his mum’s home in Texas for his yearly get-together with his hermitic, roughneck dad Cal (Matt Bomer in a role that might have been filled by Christian Bale) in Montana’s Paradise Valley (‘Big Sky Country’). How Mom and Cal were ever a romantic item isn’t really explained, but the way that the Smiths subtly and quite quickly show all you need to know about David and his father is impressive, and sets you up for what we all know is coming.
Cal is stalking a moose in the nearby mountains and wants the beast to be David’s first kill, and David is hardly enthused by the idea but goes along for the journey through the frozen terrain anyway, foolishly believing that nothing could go wrong and that his Dad is tough enough to withstand anything. After setting up a series of flashbacks (visual and aural) that we don’t really need but prove enjoyable anyway due to the casting of Bill Pullman as Cal’s late Dad, we get down to the business of an attack by a mama bear, a sequence which pales beside the ordeal faced by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, especially as the grizzly here looks decidedly like it couldn’t be less interested in biting David’s hand.
David is then forced to push, drag and piggy-back his badly-injured father through miles of snow to get help, and the players work hard to make their desperate fight for life and some kind of proper reconciliation seem as real as possible, while grunting, groaning and gasping to eventually almost comic effect.
Wiggins and Bomer are strong here, and Pullman (rather manlier than usual) is also good, if superfluous, and yet somehow this doesn’t quite come together, and you might instead end up rooting for the bear.
Rated M. Walking Out is in cinemas now.