Into the Wild (2007)
Into the Wild (2007)

Genre: Adventure and Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 28 min.

Release Date: October 19th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sean Penn Actors: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook, Zach Galifianakis

 


 

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tocked up and prepared to live off the land for a few months, Christopher Johnson McCandless (Emile Hirsch) hitches rides up through the Yukon Territory to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he plans on residing for a good amount of time. He hikes alone through snowy terrain and icy streams, hunting small game and trying to stay warm. When he comes across an abandoned bus lodged in a snow bank, he sets up house, continuing to take in the natural beauty of the land and reveling in the isolation. He also resorts to talking to himself.

Disgusted by the materialistic ideals of mankind and the general poisons of civilization, Chris opts to abandon a mainstream course of furthering his education, which included possibly attending Harvard. Through flashbacks, the events leading up to his Northern odyssey are chronicled, beginning with his Emory University graduation. Following a path of characteristic immoderation, he donates his entire life savings, cuts up all forms of identification, and burns his social security card before leaving Georgia and the many conveniences of his parents’ wealth.

Though peppered with poetic narration, insightful commentaries on relationships, and existentialistic theories, “Into the Wild” can’t eradicate a sense of teen angst, naivety, and irrational actions. Chris seems too inexperienced and youthful to truly know anything about the evils of society, political corruption, and the cruelties of humans against humans. And the familial complications (or bitterness towards parents) appear far from dramatic or serious. This is even more obvious thanks to a dual narration by his younger sister Carine (Jena Malone), who sounds unconvincingly wise beyond her years as she chimes in with analyzations of her brother’s motives and his shattered grasp of identity. Chris’ choices are bold and unusual, but far from cinematic, especially as he drifts around from job to job and place to place, making things up as he goes. He’s not bound by goals or obligations as he attempts to capture the essence of real freedom, conforming to no standards and following no rules. Perhaps, that’s the appeal.

But tackling wilderness explorations and adventures for the sake of rebellion and anger has little lasting power. The only genuine tragedy seems to be the aggravating restrictions of needing permits and governmental permission to simply kayak down a river. In addition, the necessity for money, modes of transportation, and identification pose commonplace problems for eternal drifters. The impressive supporting cast makes more of an impact, with small roles by Vince Vaughn as an employer, Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker as hippies, William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden as Chris’ parents, Kristen Stewart as a snowbird campsite singer, and Hal Holbrook (in an Oscar-nominated performance) as the elderly voice of modern reasoning.

At times, director Sean Penn’s camera favors extreme close-ups and an intrusive lingering on eyes and expressions, alternated with plenty of shots of the arctic scenery; at others, the film takes on a very documentary-like approach. Stylized editing (slow-motion, freeze frames, split screens, montages, breaking the fourth wall) further embellishes a meandering crusade that spans a slow 2 ½ hours (every so often it’s excruciatingly unhurried), full of mediocrity and flat levels of low commotion and timid enthusiasm. Broken up into chapters (based on the book by Jon Krakauer, with a screenplay by Penn) for a falsely epic feel, “Into the Wild” is ultimately a nonuniform coming-of-age tale set in the ‘90s but fashioned like a Western – emphasizing the magnificence of uninhabited regions teeming with wildlife and undisturbed flora. Unfortunately, in its preoccupation with Mother Nature, free spirits, and the pursuit of new experiences, it forgets to tell a worthwhile story or remain consistently entertaining – though the soundtrack by Michael Brook (with songs by Eddie Vedder) is fittingly enjoyable.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10