Into the Wild - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Into the Wild Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 13, 2011
Christopher McCandless: The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences.

"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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 3, 2012
"Into the Wild" is an exercise in teen angst and disillusionment put onto film - which is to say, earnest in its intentions, loud and blunt in its execution, and not particularly smart. Its likely beloved because it mirrors certain relatable adolescent emotions with such obviousness that any jaded teenager can understand it, wrapped in a story that is taken to its extreme. I'm all for a movie that wants to reach a wide audience, perhaps an entire generation, but "Into The Wild" is the epitome of hitting audiences over the head.

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.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2012
Firstly, if anyone is considering seeing this film please just watch it NOW, and read nothing more on it. There are mainstream reviews out there by great critics which have massive spoilers. Avoid them.
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.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2009
"A favorite. I loved it. The story is beautiful. It's shot beautifully too by the talented hand of Sean Penn. The cast was amazing too. The best I've seen from Emile Hirsch. I admired Christopher for willing to leave everything and everyone behind to venture out and take life on the way he did. It's not something I would ever have the courage to do. The ending is heartbreaking. I hadn't read the book, so I didn't know how it ended for him. I always wondered what his family must have thought?"
Jack Hawkins
Super Reviewer
June 11, 2011
This film was recommended to me by a couple of mates, and I was looking forward to it, it had an interesting premise, but by not even half-way through, the film had lost its appeal for me purely because of the material it was based on.

'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.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2012
Sean Penn's elegant adaptation of Krakauer's popular novel, simultaneously sweet and bittersweet, follows an young man's rebellious and solitary search for truth, never forgetting that we are all ever the sum of those who love us. Chock full of amazing performances (the list is too long!) Hal Holbrook perhaps topping them all.
Super Reviewer
½ June 2, 2009
Big marks for breathtaking cinematography - working with Terrence Malick (in The Thin Red Line) seems to have rubbed off on Sean Penn. Also, this film is full of brilliantly acted little moments, particularly those that feature Hal Holbrook, who was recognized with a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.

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.
Super Reviewer
November 17, 2007
This is my all-time favorite film. It took four viewings of this movie for me to finally say, without question, that this is the one movie that I would want to watch over and over again if I only had one movie in the world to watch. The plot, based on a true story, is about the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man who rebelled against the norms of society by giving up a comfortable life with his hypocritical parents (played superbly by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden - there is a scene showing Hurt laying out on the pavement at the end of the film that is downright heartbreaking) and a promising future by electing to pursue the ultimate adventure - a cross-country trip in which Alaska was his ultimate destination.

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.
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2011
Story of Christopher McCandless is that of a journey away from material pleasures, consumerism, or whatever you want to call it. Having believed that joy of life does'nt have to be prinicipally related to human relationships, he opts wilderness over civilized society- living off the grid. On a climactic realization he does admits that, happiness is only real when shared, but the tragedy being that by then he was so lost and trapped in wilderness, there was no going back.
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.
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2010
A journey with nothing more than solitude and the necessities to stay alive, this story tracks the journey of societal pariah Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp on his rambling experiences in, what else, the wild. Though he is journeying to the experienced nothingness of Alaska, he does go through a period of tramping, including an illegal journey down the Colorado River, treks into the wild, and rough riding with turbulent weather. He meets a slew of characters, lending cameos to Vince Vaughan, Catherine Keener, and Hal Holbrooke, all understated and inept of their usual cautionary acting parameters. There are two very ingrained messages: that of minimalism and freedom over societal standards, and that without solidarity happiness is as shallow as the life you leave behind. Besides the lack of identity our protagonist dons, we get to follow him around whilst he spouts prolific prose, and finds some truly astounding beauty in nature. The cinematography makes me weep with all honesty, as the sweeping shots and bright nuances of foreign landscapes come crashing into the viewer's retina, McCandless aggression to caring for anyone without hurt apparent as he climbs the rocky inclines and kills with either fear or astonishment dawning behind his naive eyes. Besides the efficiency that the main character sheds his past, he is also living in a state anyone can be envious of. It's a playful tale, ending on a note of survival, respect, and realization for what truly being alive means. A diatribe of natural proportions, it sure beats out any Robinson Crusoe adaptation.
Super Reviewer
July 21, 2011
We see the truths that Christopher discovered and documented -- the truths he may have hoped we would see. We see more than he does though; Sean Penn shows the hearts that Christopher breaks as he leaves people behind, so unattached to them, even unattached to his own common sense, during this journey for truth and raw nature. A very touching, reflective, sad film. Kids, don't be Christopher.
Super Reviewer
June 26, 2011
Sean Penn's Into The Wild based on the Alaskan Odyssey of Christopher McCandless is a terrific drama film with a top notch cast. McCandless opted to disown everything he owned, family, possessions, money and survive in the wild on the bare necessities. Christopher McCandless is brilliantly portrayed by Emile Hirsch, a wonderful young talent. The film is terrific at explorer McCandless' journey and the reasons as to why he undertook this type of journey to go live in the wild in the middle of nowhere. There has been much controversy on McCandless, and it's understandable why. Into The Wild is a powerful drama film that examines one mans life and how he tries to change it in the most eccentric way, I mean what McCandless did was cool in a way, but also irresponsible and dangerous. By what I read after watching the film, he had inadequate survival gear to survive in the wild, and his food would spoil quickly. The film like I said is a drama, but it's also an adventure film. The film is sad, and somewhat inspiring, but if one would something like McCandless did, remember to bring adequate supplies, a fact that is shown in the film is that McCandless was poorly prepared, supplied and equipped. Into The Wild is a wonderful, well acted drama film, and though Emile Hirsch would play Cleve Jones In the film Milk, and he was great in that film, this remains his strongest performances of his career.
Super Reviewer
½ March 22, 2011
The frustrating ending is over-shadowed by the solid direction and admirable performance from Emile Hirsch - which elevate this witty and unique true-story into an interesting expose of a strange, complex character.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2011
Only saw bits and pieces of this because I watched it in my English class but from what I saw I really enjoyed it.
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2011
Sean Penn has not always delivered the most cheerful of films when behind the camera. There always seems to be a tortured soul as his protaganist (Viggo Mortensen in "The Indian Runner" and Jack Nicholson in both "The Crossing Guard" and "The Pledge"), so it's a surprise that with "Into the Wild" he mostly keeps things upbeat and positive.
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.
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2008
Slow paced but interesting character study. I'm not sure what to make of the ending, but it's certainly worth it getting there.
Super Reviewer
September 22, 2007
Impressive outsider story based on true events. The reasons behind this young man's decision to remove himself from society and all obligations and benefits that come with it are mostly blamed on a shattered family background, which may be a tad too easy as an explanation. Director Sean Penn does neither celebrate nor condemn "Supertramp's" decision, but finds beautiful, mesmerizing images and sceneries that almost make you wanna go on a little trip yourself. Emile Hirsch is very convincing as the protagonist, the rest of the cast is full of great names delivering powerful performances as well, especially Hal Holbrook. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder's songs add to the movie's atmosphere of admiration for nature and loneliness and fit perfectly. The bitter ending is neither preachy nor romanticizing the events, but deeply touching. A slow and long yet beautiful film that's still fascinating in every minute. Great stuff.
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2010
One of the greatest films that I have ever seen. It shows how even a man willing to live in the manhood of his own life, and refusing a life that could become a wonderful life to head into is not even as fulfilling as one would hope. I caused the deaths of families and I was moved in many ways. Fantastic film made to show people a true vision of the hero that is Christopher McCandless!
Super Reviewer
October 13, 2007
My Favourite Film of 2007. Watching this film is akin to a spiritual experience. Changed my life.
Super Reviewer
September 18, 2007
This true story of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), a young man who abandons his life of comfort to pursue the freedom of life on the road, a quest that leads him to the Alaskan wilderness and the ultimate challenge of his life is unbelievable. In the final scene gave me a little tear of McCandless was lonely, struck and starving to the death in the "magic bus".
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.
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