Movie Review: Into the Wild

I read the book “Into the Wild” about a year ago. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, because it’s a very sad and unfortunate story. I will say that I was glad I read it. I feel the same way about the movie, and I guess that’s a testament as to how faithful it is to the book. The film, written for the screen & directed by Sean Penn, features endearing performances and a somber soundtrack by Eddie Vedder. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it is about a young man whom upon graduating from college decides to give up his money and identity and live in the Alaskan wild. It focuses on his family, the people he meets along his journey and his overall experience living in the wild.

Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is an Emory University graduate with rich parents and decent prospects. One day, he abruptly leaves without a word to his family and makes his way out west. Eventually, he abandons his car, cash, driver’s license and his entire life savings of $24,000 and continues his journey to Alaska on foot. Along the way, he meets a number of eclectic characters who shape his life. Among them are a middle-aged couple (Brian Dierker & Catherine Keener) who immediately take him in as family, a young singer (Kristen Stewart), and an aging loner (Hal Holbrook, in an Oscar nominated performance) who yearns to adopt Chris to be his grandson. While he is on this journey, his parents (William Hurt & Marcia Gay Harden) hire a private investigator to search for their son with no success. His younger sister, Carine (Jena Malone), whom also narrates the film, is not only concerned but surprised that her brother didn’t think to at least call her. In flashbacks, we learn that Chris did not have such an idealistic childhood. He was raised in a dysfunctional family where his parents yelled and fought all of the time.

Despite reaching Alaska, he discovers that he is not so well prepared and decides to head home. He tries to cross the stream that he crossed in the winter when it was snow, but it has since turned into an impassible river. He heads back to the bus that he has been using for shelter and tries to survive the best he can. After a few days, he realizes he has consumed a poisonous plant. Upon the realization that he will die, he begins to regret his foolish journey. Since it is too late to return home, he writes a few goodbye notes in his journal.

This film is not for everyone. If you are someone who thinks Christopher McCandless’s journey was a ridiculous act of arrogance, you will probably not appreciate this movie. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, it is a bit too long. I knew how this movie was going to end, and I was not exactly thrilled that I had to wait that much longer to get there. Regardless, Penn has crafted an unforgettable film that portrays McCandless’s journey into the wild as a tragic accident.


June 18, 2008. Uncategorized.

One Comment

  1. Maggie replied:

    I look forward to seeing it and having a good cry.

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