Into the Wild (2007)

Adventure, Biography, Drama
Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden
After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
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With his sturdy cast and confident direction, Sean Penn has turned a complex work of non-fiction like Into the Wild into an accessible and poignant character study.
  • Paramount Vantage Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 21 Sep 2007 Released:
  • 04 Mar 2008 DVD Release:
  • $18.2M Box office:

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Trailer:

Real American Beauty - an exceptional movie10/10
I've never posted a comment regarding a movie but feel compelled to after attending a screening of Into The Wild at the Toronto Film Festival last night. I won't speak to story here as it's covered in the other comments.

This is a movie of real beauty. It made me cry. I felt moved in a way that happens very rarely. It was an inspiration.

The feelings it evoked were all based on the power of the acting and the writing. The words were real and human. The relationships seemed real and human. This may not seem like a great feat - but I consider it a true rarity. It didn't feel calculated and artificial, like so many movies (read: Crash - but I'm not here to bash that...). It was very organic, natural and (I can't say it enough) just beautiful. Cripes, it's making me sound like a hippie, for heaven's sake. This for me was Penn's best work since Indian Runner.

What it reminded me of...

- Terence Malik - Herzog? - in a strange way Cassavettes? - Hal Ashby (more Coming Home than Harold & Maude...) - even a bit of Ken Loach

- Ruby in Paradise - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Five Easy Pieces - Easy Rider

... but when I list those it's not because of plot similarities (though there are some) or style (although I think you can definitely see the influence of some great films) - it's again because of the heart of it. I heard a few people at the screening comment that the film was "too long" but I don't agree. I think exploring a journey of this magnitude required visiting all of the people he touched and taking the time to see the land.

Hal Holbrook was just perfect, as was the cast as a whole, and I think Emile Hirsch is really going places - he was fantastic and he owned the role. Eddie Vedder's music worked perfectly as well - not distracting or quirky - just a part of the whole.

The film received a standing ovation and quite a few tears were shed. Magic.
TIFF07, review 3: Facing the blind deaf stone alone…Into the Wild9/10
Sean Penn's new movie Into the Wild arrives on the wave of a well-regarded novel about a college graduate who decides that the anger and violence in civilized society is too much to handle and commences a journey through nature in order to truly live life as it was meant to be. This film is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a kid, wise beyond his years, and the bonds that he creates with people along the way. A victim of excess in wealth and a shortage of love, Christopher McCandless hid inside his mind behind knowledge and philosophy, building up his intellectual strength, as well as the physical, in order to complete his trek, ultimately leading him to Alaska. Penn never falls into the trap of showing too much heartbreak on the side of McCandless's parents, because he doesn't want the audience to second-guess the decision he made. There is no debate to be had here, our protagonist has no alternative but to get out and live off the land. Only being completely self-sufficient can he grasp a meaning for his life and one day perhaps go back with that knowledge fully learned.

Emile Hirsch is absolutely brilliant with his good-natured attitude and affable charm. His character believes that human contact is not necessary for happiness and never seeks out relationships. However, his character is so likable that they find him and latch on, not to change his mind, but to experience his level of being and hopefully learn something from him and help enlarge his vocabulary on life. The people he meets help him to fully grasp the decision of life in the wild and be able to survive it. Never coming off condescendingly to those he crosses paths with, Hirsch always holds a smile on his face. One scene, where he meets up with a couple of people from Europe, proves how contagious a clear outlook on life without the troubles of societal restraints can be. These three kids have a blast, if only for a few minutes—with Hirsch being chased by the police for rafting with no license—and it makes one wonder if maybe we all should take a journey into nature and feel the freedom and full warmth of heart that a lack of stress to succeed in the business world can give.

All the supporting players are magnificent at helping show the side to McCandless that Penn needs on display to succeed. Hal Holbrook, Brian Dierker, and Catherine Keener are by far the best of these side characters with Vince Vaughn and Kirsten Stewart adding some charm too. Dierker, Keener, and Stewart play hippie, flower-child type roles and allow Hirsch to show off how modest and unselfish he is. This is the family he deserved to have from birth and he is the son they wished their lives had earned them. At their best, all four together give some of the most emotionally charged moments in the film. Holbrook, on-the-other-hand, helps give insight into the philosophy that Hirsch needs to live with in order to survive the loneliness, looking him in the face, to come in Alaska. It is truly fascinating to see how every person adds something to his overall experience and to the tools he needs.

Hirsch deserves a lot of credit because he truly outshines the film itself with his dedication and sacrifice to the role. The length of time needed to allow him the ability to lose the weight necessary for a main plot point in the movie is crazy. If the time wasn't that long and Hirsch did it all rapidly, I'm even more impressed. With all that, there are many instances free of dialogue that he needs to carry with body language and actions alone. True, much of this is enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack from Eddie Vedder, but evenso it is a remarkable performance. Kudos to Sean Penn for a gorgeous filming job also. He captures the countryside with grace, while infusing many moments of visual style by slow-motioning glimpses, knowing when to show the family left behind, utilizing informative and essential voice-over, and even breaking the fourth wall. When Hirsch first looks into the camera, at the audience, it does not seem unnatural in the slightest, but instead an amazing link for the viewers to take a look into his soul like those that crossed his path have. McCandless is so pure that it almost feels like glimpsing the calm protectiveness of God.
Captured his essence10/10
I read the book in 1996. Like others, it moved me profoundly. I created a series of prints of my interpretation of Chris. I haven't read the book since.

This film transported me right back to the spirit that Krakauer brought to life in the book. I spent a few years traveling alone from 1994-1996. This film reminded my why I left and why I returned. Ten years later, all grown up with all the crap, I'm haunted again by Chris. What a well done job.

Thank you Sean & John. You did it right.

By the way, try to catch Holly Figueroa's song "Dream in Red" inspired by Into The Wild.
One of the best movies I've ever seen5/10
One of the best movies I've ever seen. Beautiful, deep, true, adventurous, sad, occasionally funny, real, at times very touching. Based on a real-life novel, it is written and directed by Sean Penn. I have always loved the movie work of Sean Penn. Congratulations and thank you to Mr. Penn on giving me a few hours of though-provoking delight. Can you say Oscar? This movie says it loud and clear!

The story; Christopher McCandless, just graduated from college in the early 1990s, goes off on an adventure. He is smitten with books he reads—Thoreau, London, Byron. He wants no money, so he gives his to needy causes or burns it. Chris is cocky, driven, industrious.

He is traumatized by his parents' bad marriage. He tries to work through his anguish. He seems determined to destroy himself just to prove that he has different values than his parents. He is inconsiderate of his family and keeps them worried about his whereabouts and safety, as if a single reassuring phone call would ruin his rebellion. He fancies himself a philosopher, but acts the petulant child. It is a great credit to the film that we see these character flaws in our hero.

Off on the road, he makes a number of foolish choices – and suffers from some of them. Other foolish choices, such as daring to kayak a rapid river, bring him joy. He meets a lot of people and almost all are kind to him. His interactions with people are intense, the kind you have when you are planning to run off and disappear while you are still a mysterious entity. He avoids getting too close to anyone.

The movie is gorgeous. Mountains, plains, sky, rivers, animals. The acting is fantastic, totally believable. The actors are incredible and perfectly cast – Catherine Keener as an aging hippie vagabond, Vince Vaughn as a wacky farmer growing who knows what, William Hurt as Chris' potbellied suburbanite dad, Marcia Gay Harden as the type of mom who breeds children who wants to run off to the wilderness to escape from her. Emile Hirsch plays Chris, and does a great job of it. When an actual photo of the real Chris McCandless comes on screen, we see that Hirsch resembles him. Original songs by Eddie Vedder give the right feel – that of a well-to-do young white man heading out on a chosen adventure, getting gritty by choice. His goal is to get to Alaska, but on the way there, he hits many other states and Mexico, too.

Chris is a clueless kid from the warm South. He plans to go to Alaska, yet only arrives with any needed equipment because kind folks force it upon him – a machete, warm clothes, rubber boots. He's highly educated and gets good grades, yet, early on his trip, ignores a big sign that warns of flash floods. That prepares us that we are going to wince many times at his low level of common sense, while at the same time reveling in his physical strength and willingness to press on.

At one point, Chris passes through Los Angeles. He is dirty, hungry, tired, and goes to a downtown mission shelter. The other men there are also dirty, hungry, and tired, but not of their own choosing. It is not their adventure, it is their life. He realizes fast that he does not want to feel categorized with men who are in dire straits due to misfortune and not due to following their own adventure.

The movie shows Chris as an honorable young man. I do not want to give away any of the plot, so I'll just say – the young man has principles and so does the movie.

A few parts of the movie confused me. After Chris's college graduation, he meets h is parents at a restaurant. He brings with him a lovely young woman, obviously his date. Weirdly, it turns out that she is his sister!

There is more confusion when Chris picks up work on a farm run by Wayne, the Vince Vaughn character. What are they growing or doing? What's up?

There is an unintentionally funny scene where an old man tells Chris that he does not have time for adventures because he is too busy with leather. I thought the old guy was confessing being into whips and chaps. But no, he has a workshop where he tools leather.

There were a couple spots where the editing distracted from the movie. I saw a preview; maybe it was a rough cut. There's a scene on the farm where a triple screen is used – like a cheesy commercial.

Another scene, where Chris is eating an apple, is a series of jump cuts, which I really liked. It seemed an homage to French auteur filmmakers. But it ends with Chris mugging at the camera. With it, Sean Penn breaks the believability and acknowledges that yes, this is just us making a movie.

There is another part where Chris is in a car with the older man who is dropping him off. As they pull up, there is an inexplicable cutaway shot of what looks to be the head of a cannon.

Much of the movie is like a travel montage or music video involving mountains and sky. The scenes are so beautiful.

I know people that have elements of Chris in them. And I think I've met all the characters he runs into out on the road.
Justice done.10/10
The sensitivity with which Krakauer captured the essence of McCandless and his adventure is extended aptly to the movie format by Sean Penn. Even if one might not be able to appreciate the purpose for Alex's journey, I don't think anyone would be able to deny that Into the Wild is a sensitive and poignant cinematic experience. There are scenes in this movie that one will never be able to forget, particularly the ending sequence. This movie will easily pull its audience into a philosophical debate for the truth about who was right and wrong isn't easy to distinguish. Sean Penn certainly doesn't try to answer those questions, questions that McCandless' life left for his family and the rest of us. Penn does well to tread a delicate objective but not indifferent line. Certainly the best movie of this year and one of the best ever made. The story, the story itself is great.