At long last, I finally got the chance to see Into The Wild today. After spending some time collecting my thoughts about the film, I thought I’d post some impressions.
Let me start off by saying that the film is very well made no matter how you look at it. Director Sean Penn managed to capture the essence of Jon Krakauer’s book very well while also capturing Chris McCandless’, the subject of the film, wide eyed wonder at the World.
For those who don’t know the story, Into The Wild is the true story of McCandless, who graduated college back in May of 1992, and that following Summer proceeded to give away most of his possessions, including $24,000, and then set off on a cross country odyssey. He sets out on this journey as a result of living in a dysfunctional household, and upon achieving his freedom, he set out to explore the country, and himself, leaving his family behind, taking the name Alexander Supertramp.
Along the way, McCandless met some unusual characters who had an impact on his life nearly as big as the one he had on them. Clearly McCandless loved living the life of a vagabond and he forged some real bonds with the people he met on the road. The film does a nice job of showing us those relationships and what Chris gained from them. Not only did those people become his friends, they became his new family.
Eventually, McCandless makes his way to Alaska, which had been a dream destination for him for some time. Taking some basic supplies with him, including a gun, he wanders of “into the wild” to live off the land and become closer to nature. The story takes a tragic end however, when McCandless eventually dies of starvation, alone in the wild.
The film tells this story in an interesting way. When the movie opens, McCandless, who is played by Emile Hirsch, has just arrived in Alaska, and is just setting out on his final adventure. Not long into the film however, the back story begins to be told through a series of flashbacks, beginning with Chris’ graduation from college. Through the film we flash forward to McCandless in Alaska, and then back again to some other time in his journey.
As I said, the film is very well made. The shots of the stunning landscapes that McCandless visited on his travels are beautifully and lovingly shot, and it is clear that Penn is a fan of the book and the story in general. The supporting is a good one as well, with the likes of William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Jena Malone, and Hal Holbrook, who gives an excellent performance.
Overall, I thought the film caught the essence of the book very well, and it’s clear that McCandless was a bright, charismatic, and interesting young man. Someone that I think I would have liked a lot as a person, and that is where I have conflicting emotions about the film. While I love his spirit of adventure, and his desire to travel, explore, and get back in touch with nature, I’m a bit confounded as to how someone so bright could set off into such a dangerous place as Alaska’s wilderness with such a lack of preparation and experience. While he loved nature and the backcountry, it didn’t seem like he respected it’s power until it was too late. His idealism and wonder at the World around him were admirable traits, but they also were his undoing.
In the end, it’s hard not to like the man, but it’s also hard to not be a little mad at him for being so careless and haphazard in his approach. The film tends to lean more towards the idealistic side of the story and shies away from McCandless irresponsible nature. In the end, it was the lack of preparation and experience that cost hims his life.
All that said, the film is definitely one worth seeing. I recommend it highly, and I think you’ll enjoy it and the story it tells. Be sure to catch it when it finally makes it to your town.
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