Into the Wild Reviews
"Go with your heart."
Into the Wild is one of those movies that has so much heart at the core of its story. It's a story of following a path that you choose for yourself and not the one that society tries to dictate for you. It's the story of Christopher McCandless and a true one at that. The film is beautiful and just pure joy to watch. I love these type of movies where we follow an interesting man on a journey. The journey in this one is pretty epic too. It takes us from South Dakota to Arizona, from Mexico to Alaska. Along the way we meet hippies, a beautiful girl that falls for Chris, and an old man that learns to love Chris as his own grandchild.
Chris, after graduating from college, decides to give all his money to charity, abandon his car and his family, and go out into the wild. He believe that careers are a 20th century invention and he wants no part of that world, and to be honest, I have those same thoughts. This is a story that I believe is extremely important.
This is a Sean Penn directed film and probably the best movie he's ever made. The Pledge was another really good one from him, and The Crossing Guard and The Indian Runner were okay, but nothing like this. The cast is very good as well to go along with Penn's great directing. Emile Hirsch plays Chris and does an extraordinary job. Then there's a supporting cast that includes: Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone, and Kristen Stewart.
Into the Wild is a must see film and one of my personal favorites. I could watch this movie over and over again, and have as much passion for the story as I did the first time. This should definitely be on the list of films that you need to see before you die, because if you don't, you're certainly missing out on a full blown masterpiece.
As such, despite inclusions of talented cast members like Hal Holbrook and the steady direction of Sean Penn, I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated by the immaturity of the story and the main character. Emile Hirsch plays Christopher McCandless like the boy (not man) probably was in real life - confused, selfish, and stubborn. These are teenage traits to be sure, traits that end up dangerously if they aren't grown out of, demonstrated perfectly by the film. Yet the script seems to suppose we should idolize McCandless for his childish ignorance. He did so much wrong, but I suppose because this is a true story, the writers of the book and film decided that they would treat him with the utmost respect and not question his obviously foolish course of action. But a movie like "127 Hours" shows that a movie that calls the victim out in order to warn the audience of repeating such misguided acts can be rich, effective, and yet respectful to the subject in question.
Instead, "Into The Wild" wastes its hugely unnecessary two and a half hour run time praising McCandless, and when it isn't doing that, its likely prancing around goofy characters that range from talented (Catherine Keener) to eye-roll worthy (Kristen Stewart, who bites her lower lip immediately upon entering the scene). And all of these episodes usually end with McCandless not learning anything from them, and usually leaving them without saying goodbye, without doing anything that remotely helps them or teaches anyone anything. Here we see a microcosm for whiny teenage immaturity (dare I also say pretentiousness), which masquerades as some sort of righteous cynicism. The kind of thought processes that clearly, if you watch the movie until the end, should not be replicated or encouraged.
So what, then, is the purpose of "Into The Wild" if we're asked to cheer on a childish fool the entire time? I certainly believe the film has a purpose, and deserves to exist, but I'm inclined to say the love people have for this movie is highly indicative of a generation of social media-induced self-indulgence and self-righteousness. In other words, "Into The Wild" serves the same kind of purpose "Project X" serves - to shine a light on what is largely wrong with how today's youth thinks - though admittedly "Into The Wild" at least attempts to maintain a sense of classiness, even if it is ultimately a facade.
Secondly, please watch the film. Rarely have I seen anything so earnest, so uncynical. It is not a film that simply sits back a watches it subject, but is totally part of it, enhanced by its ideas. Beautiful, intelligent, heartbreaking. A great film.
'Into The Wild' isn't bad film making by any means; but I believe the story of Christopher McCandless is simply not film-worthy. To be frank, McCandless was a selfish fool who lost all sense of rationality whilst making a grand statement about civilised society. He left his only sister with their emotionally distant, shallow and contentious parents to pursue his ill-fated adventure totally unprepared. So unfortunately, I couldn't see past the lead character's naivety and self importance.
But despite this, I did find myself compelled to watch McCandless' interaction with the film's supporting cast; the hippies, old man Ron Hanz and dare I say it even Kristen Stewart's role were infinitely more interesting than McCandless' 'inspiring' mission. Again, I stress that this film isn't bad film making, it features good performances from the whole cast and some good emotive interplay between them, but it is all set within the context of the lead character's idiotic escapade, a fundamental aspect which I cannot bypass.
So in conclusion, I am giving this film the minimum amount required for a 'fresh' rating based solely on the supporting cast; it's a shame that McCandless was immortalised for being so reckless.
But I had a problem with this film that made it hard to watch: the protagonist isn't exactly likeable. As was once said of Lisa Simpson, he has "a slight tendency toward know-it-all-ism" and is so self-righteous that I don't really get behind him; I kind of hope that he just comes through this little phase and goes home to his parents afterward... or even gives them a call.
It's a small annoyance, though. Overall this is a quintessentially American film, steeped in Thoreau and big like Walt Whitman, that's great to get lost in. It's a breath of fresh air.
Along the way, he meets some unique people, including a loving, hippie couple (played beautifully by the very likable Catherine Keener and first-time actor Brian Dierker), a partying redneck farmer (played to perfection by a subdued Vince Vaughn), a lonely old man (played by Hal Holbrook, who gives the best supporting performance I have ever seen in a film - he will bring you to tears), and an attractive young musician (Kristen Stewart, before her dreaded "Twilight" fame). It is ironic that this film is directed by Sean Penn, who has not been shy in his personal life blasting America and its many faults. Here, he shows everything that is beautiful about this country, the majestic mountains, the peaceful fields, and the haunting, chilling, beauty of Alaska in particular. The characters are rich and detailed expertly, Penn makes you care for each character McCandless runs into. I can't say enough about the lead performance by Emile Hirsch. He really embodies Chris. Eddie Vedder's (vocalist for one of the best bands ever in "Pearl Jam") soundtrack is also quiet, but unmistakably powerful.
Yes, this movie is long, and yes, it is very artsy and expects its viewers to have a love for settings and a story driven by character development. In every aspect however, this is a perfect movie, thanks to impeccable casting, fantastic cinematography, and a heart-wrenching finale that I will never forget.
A real thought-provoking travelogue, beautiful and tragic at the same time, supported by excellent performances in front and behind camera, also worth mentioning is Eddie Vedder?'s mesmerizing songs well-blend into the movie.
Based on the real life story of straight-A college graduate Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who in 1992 destroyed his ID, changed his name to 'Alexander Supertramp', donated his savings to charity, spurned his parents - and America's capitalist society- and, with no warning to anyone, dropped off the radar in search of a quieter, more personal fulfillment in the Alaskan wilderness. Along the road he met a variety of people who became something like extended family to him.
Sean Penn employs a completely different approach with this sweepingly beautiful road-movie/new- age affirmation. There are long methodical shots of gorgeous landscapes and a meditative pace throughout, showing that he's in no hurry to tell this man's story. You can see his admiration for McCandless as he paints a very nuanced and positive portrait of him and puts his faith in Emile Hirsch in carrying it off. Hirsch in return, delivers a wonderful, heartfelt piece of acting and it's apparent that he has also invested himself in this film. Added to which are some great cameo appearances peppered throughout, with Vince Vaughn as a particular highlight, stepping out of his comedy comfort-zone. It's a film that's hard not to like, with it's anti-capitalist, free-spirited message and a reminder to maintain a conciousness in our modern times of corporate greed and disillusionment.
For some, it may just come across as another Hippie-on-a-trippy but McCandless was a human-being that had an awareness and a bravery to live by his beliefs and Penn ambitiously depicts that, with poetic care and respect.
Hirsch is absolutely brilliant with his good-nature 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.
All the supporting players are magnificent at helping show the side to McCandless that director Sean 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.