Twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith were both Austin residents until somewhat recently. Alex continues to live here and teach at the University of Texas at Austin, while Andrew headed back to Montana, where they were born and where their latest film was shot.
The Smith brothers first broke out at Sundance with “The Slaughter Rule” in 2002, casting both Ryan Gosling and Amy Adams in early roles that earned them strong reviews. They’ve returned with an intense story of survival against the odds, an unexpectedly emotional journey based on a short story by David Quammen.
Cal (Matt Bomer, “Magic Mike XXL”) is a divorced father who lives in Montana. His son David (Josh Wiggins, “Hellion”) is 14 and flies in to visit for an annual hunting trip. It’s the one time of year that Cal gets to see his son and they are able to bond in big sky country, something becoming more difficult each year as David would rather play video games than trek off into the woods.
The plan for this trip is for David to kill his first moose. He’s not so sure that he’s up for the task, but relents. Family dynamics are further represented by flashback sequences where Cal is shown as a young man, out on hunting and fishing trips with his father (played by Bill Pullman). We see how this is a tradition and how happy Cal is to be able to pass this knowledge down to a son who he is not often able to connect with.
After discovering that there is an angry mama grizzly bear in their vicinity, they decide to retreat, but an accident has devastating consequences. Both father and son are forced to use their limited resources to survive.
Cinematographer Todd McMullen (“Friday Night Lights”) captures some spectacular footage in what had to have been a difficult shoot. The opening shots show the sun rising over snow-capped mountains. Stunning shots of purple and orange skies streaked with clouds above the vast mountain ranges are just plain breathtaking. The majesty of the rural location comes through in even the most difficult sequences.
Bomer and Wiggins are extraordinarily good, and the well-crafted screenplay creates a palpable tension that hangs for the last 20 minutes or so of the picture. This is independent filmmaking at its best.
“Walking Out” was recently acquired by Sundance Selects/IFC, who are expected to release it later this year.