Into the Wild film review

Year: 2007

Who is Alexander Supertramp? He is a mythological figure who brought enlightenment to all he touched. Who is Alexander Supertramp? He walked among us and synthesized his pain into energy. Who is Alexander Supertramp? Christopher McCandless asked himself that same question everyday.

The film Into the Wild is so amazingly brilliant, I left asking that question to myself. It’s so deeply real I left hoping that Christopher McCandless had found the answers he was looking for.

Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild is not only brought to the screen by Sean Penn as a celebrated portait, it digs down deep into your bones, and stays with you well after leaving the theater.

I didn’t know what to think of the movie early on. It seemed to labor through it’s opening scenes, almost going through the motions, as promising young college graduate McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who seems very well adjusted to his future plans of Harvard Law School, enjoys time with his sister and parents after his graduation ceremony. However, his true passion and anguish boils to the surface, when his parents inform him that they simply want to buy him a new car to replace his well-worn Datson. Celebration immediately spirals into confrontation, as Christopher reveals hints of his unhappiness with his life as he knows it.

Penn’s direction clearly shows his empathy with this young man, who is determined not to turn out as his parents did…in a loveless marriage of pain, violence and convenience.

Tension builds quickly, as the college graduate burns all of his identification, and donates his remaining college fund to charity, leaving the audience to wonder what his true intensions are, and why he seems so determined to hurt those around him by disappearing. What follows is a physical and mental journey that brings him to realizations about himself and introduces him to the true nature of life, faith, joy, suffering and loss.

Penn uses split screen editing, and voice-over narration to parallel the stories of Christopher as he travels the U.S. to his own Mecca, which turns out to be Alaska, as his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) and his supportive-but-confused sister (Jena Malone) take their own journey through reflection and ultimately love.

Into the Wild is a brilliantly acted, well crafted film that will strike chords that could take you on your own journey long after you watch it.

Into the Wild recently played at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, and will be released tomorrow (Sept. 21, 2007) in major markets in the U.S.

Review © 2007 by Rene Carson

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