The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Walking Out

Walking Out joins a long line of survival movies set in harsh, unforgiving outdoor locations. In this case, it's a snowy mountain, far from civilization. Stories like this tend to pack a punch because they make us put ourselves in the shoes of the characters, imagining how we would fare under the same conditions. Whereas some films play up the danger to provide over-sized thrills Backcountry and Open Water being two fine examples Walking Out focuses as much on a deep thematic element about the relationships between fathers and sons.

Josh Wiggins (Mean Dreams) plays David, a teenage boy who is sent to spend a week in remote Montana with estranged father Cal (Matt Bomer). The tension between them is palpable. Cal thinks David's urban lifestyle has made him soft, while David harbors resentment about the dissolution of his parents' marriage. The teen wants to make a good effort, though, so he agrees to go hunting in the mountain wilderness with his dad. Along the way, Cal regales him with a story from his own youth, about a lesson he learned while hunting with his father, Clyde (played in flashbacks by Bill Pullman). A freak accident injures both of them, leading to a desperate attempt to get down off the mountain alive.

As a survival tale, Walking Out works fairly well. What David and Cal must do in order to even have a chance of making it back home is harrowing. While totally practical and by no means extreme, contemplating it is enough to send chills up your spine. The required action would be grueling under the best of circumstances. In the freezing cold and snow, it's almost inconceivable. The movie definitely puts you on edge by making you envision it. Authenticity of the scenery and locations adds to the effect. A sense of urgency is created because it really does feel as though these characters are incredibly remote, with no chance of easy assistance.

Underneath the visceral elements, Walking Out compellingly weaves the story of David and Cal with the one of Cal and Clyde. Cal is trying to teach David the things Clyde taught him. But are they the right lessons? Do they apply to David, who is clearly a very different person? Or, conversely, are they precisely the kinds of things the teenager needs to know in order to survive in the world, whether it's the snowy mountains or a booming metropolis? These are the sorts of questions posed by the film, and they keep you hooked.

Bomer and Wiggins are both excellent, creating a believable shifting dynamic between their characters. Wiggins, in particular, gets a moment at the very end that he handles with power and grace. It's a stunner. Pullman's role is small, yet he makes an indelible impact playing a man with equal amounts of toughness and moral fortitude.

At times, Walking Out feels like it's elongating things in order to achieve feature length. There's not quite enough plot here to justify a 95-minute running time. An extra complication or two would have helped it seem fuller. At least the story winds to a poignant conclusion that manages to pull its themes together in a satisfying way. And the excitement of seeing how the central father and son characters face a grave situation provides continual suspense.

Filmmaking siblings Alex and Andrew Smith have, on balance, made a brainy, emotional, and captivating survival tale.

( out of four)

Walking Out is rated PG-13 for bloody injury images, some thematic elements and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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