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A movie directed by Sean Penn

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Into The Wild ~ 2007

  • May 3, 2008
  • by
Pros: acting above all, scenery, production, soundtrack

Cons: none

The Bottom Line: "Society, have mercy on me.
I hope you're not angry, if I disagree.
Society, crazy indeed.
I hope you're not lonely...
without me.
~ Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild)

After reading Jon Krakauer’s book, I hesitated watching this movie. I wondered if it would explain some things I questioned after the reading and I also wondered if it would be treated with the respect it deserved, for the McCandless family. Director Sean Penn gave Chris McCandless, and the entire family, the respect it deserved. He also fleshed out the persona known as Alexander Supertramp aka Chris McCandless for me and gave me some answers I needed.

The story of Into The Wild is loosely based on the events in the life of Chris McCandless, leading up to his excursion into the wilderness of Alaska. Information was gathered from his family, friends, people he met along the way, and his journals. As helpful as his journals could have been, once in Alaska they dealt mostly with food and his attempts to procure food and nourishment.

Chris was a bright but somewhat vagabond young man. He graduated from college at age 24, gave away or destroyed everything he owned including $24,000 in his savings account. He abandoned all ties to his past; burning his credit cards, drivers license, social security card and all forms of identity. His end goal, someday, was to walk into the wild in Alaska, never looking back, and live off the land, independent of others.

Along the way, during his two year journey, he met many people that gave him knowledge and a bit of companionship. Working at odd jobs, he traipsed across the highways and byways, always heading northwest to his ultimate goal. He left his family totally behind, clueless to his travels. At no time did he contact them during this time frame, giving them even the smallest bit of peace of mind.

When I read the book, I thought he was so inconsiderate. So thoughtless about their feelings. He was so cruel. That was several years ago and since then, and watching this movie, I have changed my judgment of his feelings. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, it simply didn’t occur to him that they might care or be concerned. It wasn’t that he was cruel or inconsiderate, it was simply that he didn’t walk to the same drum as the rest of the world.

Chris McCandless firmly believed he could disassociate himself from the world and from the possessions people require. He thought he could live free and off the land, with no hindrance or oppression. He thought he could turn his back on the entire world, become one with nature, and follow his own dreams into that wild part that rests inside all of us, that freedom.

What Chris discovered was [taken from his journal ] "Happiness is only real when shared".

The Actors
Marcia Gay Harden played Billie, the mother. There was nothing remarkable about her role. At times there did appear a bit of neediness, but overall I didn’t feel he immersed herself completely into the feelings that a mother would under these circumstances.

On the other hand, William Hurt as Walt, the father, was a different story. For the most part he seemed very removed from it all. To be truthful, neither of these characters had a large part in the movie. However, there is one scene, where Hurt simply drops to his knees, completely bereft, that I found to be very truthful in portrayal. This loss, of a child, is something that is almost impossible to convey unless you have been there/done that.

Another small role in the film went to Jena Malone as Carine, his sister. She does a lot of narration of the story but her on-screen presence isn’t much more than her parents. In real life, Carine was the one that transported Chris’s body home to his parents and made the trip to Alaska to see the place where her brother died.

There were many other bit players throughout the movie. Small but necessary parts to form the person that was Alexander Supertramp. In that vein, I must talk about Emile Hirsch, who played the part of Alexander/Chris. His transformation through the movie was simply incredible. At the end, he was barely recognizable. It reminded me so much of another movie, The Machinist where Christian Bale dropped over 60 pounds during the movie to make it more believable. Worked for me. Same applies to this movie and Emile Hirsch.

To see him at the beginning, and even through the movie, so alive and healthy then in the final scenes, so emaciated and pale. It was like - Dude, eat a Twinkie. Of course, he would have loved to eat a Twinkie or anything dang thing else if it were available. They also made note that all scenes were shot with no stand-ins, even the scene with the bear. OK, trained bear or not, it is a bear. Even pet dogs have turned on their owners.

The production
Overall I think the entire thing was well made and held fairly true to Krakauer’s book. The ending was the only thing where I noticed a difference, although, as I said, it has been some time since reading the book, so there could have been more.

I think Penn gave an insightful and thoughtful introduction into the life of Chris and his family. From what I’ve read, Penn was quite respectful to the family and even took them to the site where Chris died. He also made the trip, several times, to get a feeling for the bleakness and the surroundings that made up Chris’s last days.

Many of the scenes were filmed on the actual locations where Chris traveled. All scenery and exterior shots were just beautiful. The soundtrack for the movie was well thought out and gave meaning to several scenes.

I won’t even attempt to list the awards this film has been nominated or won individually. On the overall view though:

Academy Awards ~ Editing, Performance [Holbrook]
American Cinema Editors ~ Edited Feature Film
Broadcast Film Critics ~ Actor [Hirsch], Director, Picture, Song, Actor [Holbrook], Actress [Keener], Writer
Chicago Film Critics ~ Picture, Screenplay, Actor [Holbrook]
Cinema Audio Society ~ Sound Mixing
Costume Designers Guild ~ Design
Directors Guild ~ Directional Achievement
Film Critics Circle, Australia ~ Foreign Film, English
Golden Globes ~ Original Song, Original Score
Gotham Awards ~ Film, Actor [Hirsch]
Grammy Awards ~ Song
Lumiere Awards, France ~ Technical Achievement
Mill Valley Film Festival ~ Actor [Hirsch]
Motion Picture Sound Editors ~ Sound Editing
National Board of Review ~ Breakthrough Performance [Hirsch]
Online Film Critics Society ~ Best Actor[Hirsch], Score, Actor [Holbrook]
Palm Springs Film Festival ~ Director
Rome Film Fest ~ Premiere Prize
Satellite Awards ~ Original Song
Screen Actors Guild ~ Outstanding Cast, Actor [Keener], Actor [Hirsch], Actor [Holbrook]
Society of Camera Operators ~ Operator of the Year
Sao Paulo Film Festival ~ Foreign Language Film
USC Scripter Award ~ Screenwriter, Author
Writers Guild ~ Adapted Screenplay

Impressive, huh? It carries an R rating, language and slight nudity. Runtime 148 minutes.

Overall impression
Visually it is a beautiful film, even in the starkest times. Having this physical side of Chris shown to me has given me the ability to forgive some of his slights to his family. I guess he finally discovered it is true, 'no man is an island'**. I thoroughly enjoyed this film.


**John Donne


Viewing Format: DVD

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More Into the Wild reviews
review by . November 15, 2010
Let me come right and admit that I dislike Sean Penn a great deal. His politics are infantile, silly and represent Hollywood's penchant for knee-jerk liberalism at its worst. His trips to Iraq are an embarrassment.     But let me also admit that he truly is an artist to be reckoned with. From his wonderful performances in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH through is Oscar-winning work on MYSTIC RIVER, he has proven himself a unique talent. And now his skills as a director cannot be …
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
This movie makes my soul ache. It's so gorgeous. One of my all-time favorites.
Quick Tip by . December 09, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
A powerful film about the choices we face living in modern society & about one young man's attempt to break free with tragic results.
Quick Tip by . September 17, 2009
This made me want to hop on the open road & go on an adventure- the story was reminiscent of Buddha, leaving luxury to pursue something more
Quick Tip by . September 17, 2009
Phenomenal film with an amazing plot, cast, and soundtrack. Really tugs at your heart strings and makes you reevaluate life.
review by . June 27, 2009
When Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) graduated from college, he had one goal in life - to finally break away from his unhappy family and the constraints of society in general and live off the land in Alaska. The episodic film flashes back and forth between Chris' adventures in Alaska and the months leading up to it, focusing on the people who befriended him - including an aging hippie couple and a lonely, old man (well-played by the venerable Hal Holbrook).       Based on a true …
review by . February 06, 2009
Having recently completed Jon Krakauer's arguably most famous book, "Into Thin Air," about the Everest disaster, I was very eager to read more from this journalist-cum-book writer. I'm very glad to say that "Into the Wild" did not disappoint.      Krakauer crafts a very interesting story, splicing together as much of his protagonist's final journey as possible, and he is remarkably detailed considering this boy, Chris McCandless, roamed about for more than a year and never stayed …
review by . March 14, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Acting, scenery      Cons: Story is weak or weakly told, still not sure which      The Bottom Line: Take a look at the cast list, if you like any of them then the film won't be a waste. Otherwise consider it carefully, starving isn't fun to watch.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Into the Wild’s narrative is like a line graph of Enron’s final month except that …
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About this movie


Jon Krakauer's bestselling nonfiction book about the life of Chris McCandless is finally brought to the big screen in INTO THE WILD. Directed by Sean Penn, the film opens in 1992, when Chris (Emile Hirsh) is a promising college graduate. Shortly after graduation, Chris gives his life savings to charity, burns all of his identification, and begins hitchhiking across America, his ultimate goal being Alaska. Citing passages from his heroes, Thoreau and Jack London, he is determined to escape society and get back to nature. He blows from town to town like a tumbleweed, hopping trains, camping with aging hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), working briefly with a farmer (Vince Vaughan), and befriending a widowed leather worker (Hal Holbrook). He revels in his newfound freedom, but meanwhile, his parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) have no idea where he is, and are sick with worry. While their relationship with Chris was already troubled, they are nonetheless devastated by his disappearance. ...

Into the Wild is a 2007  American drama film based on the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer about the adventures of Christopher McCandless. It was directed by Sean Penn, who also wrote the screenplay, and stars Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Stewart, and Hal Holbrook. It premiered during the second edition of the Rome Film Feast. The film ...
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Director: Sean Penn
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 2007, September 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Sean Penn
DVD Release Date: March 04, 2008
Runtime: 2hrs 27min
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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