Gus Van Sant's self-imposed penance for the commercial indulgences of his Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester and, in between those two, the Psycho remake: a laid-back survival tale, a stripped-down Walkabout, about two hiking buddies (Matt Damon, Casey Affleck) who take a wrong turn on the Wilderness Trail and wander around a trackless desert panorama where you half-expect them to stumble upon an hallucinatory love-in of Antonioni hippies. (The opening music gives you little hint of how far off the beaten path it intends to go: the very same Arvo Pärt piece used the year previous in both Swept Away and Heaven, roughly as esoteric as Pachelbel's Canon.) A film of extreme long shots, long takes, little experiments in sheer duration (e.g., Affleck's "I Conquered Thebes" monologue in recollection of a video-game adventure, or Damon's construction of a "dirt mattress" into which Affleck can safely jump from a twenty-foot drop-off, or a nonverbal tracking shot alongside two bobbing heads, to a steady rhythm of crunching feet), it may be a bore, but in its defense it is not more so than a lot of movies that try a lot harder not to be: Finding Forrester, let's say. Looking at the screen is a little like looking out a train window travelling through the Southwest desert: you feel free to tune in and out while composing a mental grocery list. The sights, when you remember to notice, are a real eyeful. (2003) — Duncan Shepherd
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