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Movie Review: Into the Wild

Christopher McCandless leaves all for a life of freedom and adventure in Alaska. Check out our reviewer's thoughts on this film by director Sean Penn.

Friday, May 09, 2008

IntoTheWild.jpg
Christopher with Ron Franz, played by Hal Holbrook

Name of film: Into the Wild

Director: Sean Penn

Lead Actors: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone

Screenplay by: Sean Penn, based on the book by John Krauker. Original score by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

The story: Christopher McCandless graduates from Emory University and gives up all his possessions and money for a life of freedom in Alaska. The film chronicles his adventures along the way and the people whose lives he touches. Divided into sections, the movie jumps forward and
backward to different times in Christopher's life.

Review: This movie is about wasted lives. Christopher is a college graduate who thinks he knows everything there is to know about life, embarking on this trip without telling anyone.He also is not prepared in any way, trusting to luck and other people. He donates all his money to a charity and simply drives off. Of course, he is also punishing his parents for not being perfect.

Christopher tries to emulate his idols of Thoreau, Tolstoy and Jack London by trying to live completely free of society. One has to wonder about the decisions he makes because, in his rebellion against his parents, he hurts them and does not consider the consequences. He also is not prepared to live independently. He has no knowledge of how to make it on his own, trusting to one thin book on wild flora. Many times during this movie I shook my head, thinking how naïve and unprepared he was.

Along the way, Christopher meets many people also living wasted lives. Most heartbreaking is his relationship with Ron Franz, played by Hal Holbrook. Franz treats Christopher like a son, even asking to adopt him before dropping him off for the next part of Christopher's journey. But Christopher breaks his heart.

When Christopher reaches Alaska, you are happy that he has made it, but toward the end the audience realizes that not all dreams are meant to be written about. Christopher's lack of being prepared ends up costing him everything.

For a film advocating Sean Penn's belief in going green, this film should be less tedious and more focused on the story, not five-minute shots of caribou. The audience is torn in different directions, ranging from laughter to sorrow to wonderment to pity.

I left the theater wondering if I did or did not like this movie. In trying to earn an Oscar nomination and get its political message across, the film fails because of the way it drags on. Unfortunately, all gets lost in a disjointed attempt to be an art film.

Why you'd want to see this movie: You should go if you like very long, tedious, sad movies with lots of scenery, including topless ladies and other nudity.

Rating: Review Stars2.5 Stars

- Reviewed by Shirley Hepner, New Fairfield, Connecticut

View the trailer for Into the Wild »


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