Saturday, 26 September 2020
Into the Wild
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Monday, 29 October 2007 00:00
Into the Wild is the type of adventure story we don’t often see anymore but in these days of quick cash and cell-phones, I think we could all use a little taste of this kind of freedom. It’s freedom with a cautionary twist however, since it’s based on a true story with a less than ideal conclusion.

The film starts out by introducing us to Christopher McCandless, a young guy who has everything going for him. He’s graduating at the top of his class, has wealthy parents and a doting sister – everything he needs to make it big in the real world. But that is the last thing he wants to do. Obsessed with the poetic words of literary masters such as Jack London, he is desperate to have a real adventure of his own and to live without strings. Out of rebelliousness and determination not to be like his unhappy parents he donates or burns all of his money and heads on his “Great Alaskan Adventure”.

The film follows Chris on his journey as he hitchhikes, treks and kayaks across some of the most beautiful parts of the United States. The cinematography is gorgeous, showing off vast expanses of sky, hills or wilderness and giving us a real taste of what it might be like to be living under the stars.

He meets several interesting characters along the way and learns something from each of them but his stubbornness prevents him from getting too close or taking their advice to heart even when it would have served him well. An aging hippy named Jan (Catherine Keener) and her husband become the closest thing to family he meets on the road and at times he almost seems content to stay with these adoptive parents.

Jan is a mother without a child and pleads with him to contact his family and reassure them. But Chris, for all his philosophizing, is really just an angry child at heart and refuses. Throughout the film we get to see what is going on back home and how his willful disappearance hurts his family. His sister who adores him, and tries hard to justify his actions narrates segments of the film.

I found this to be a powerfully told story, all the more so for the flaws of the main character. Chris is smart and charismatic, but at times he can be frustratingly ignorant. All the same it is fun to watch the various adventures he gets himself into, testing his physical and mental strength. When the lessons come they hit hard and his character develops throughout the film.

For the most part director Sean Penn did a fantastic job. As I mentioned the movie looks beautiful and the performances were really strong. There were only a couple things that I would have changed including one scene in which Chris is shown eating an apple but then looks directly into the camera. It is a funny and candid scene, but in that split second he took me out of the film and landed me smack into my seat at the theatre. To the opposite effect is a very effective scene where Chris enters the city after months on the road. He looks like a wild animal amidst the sheer ugliness of sky rises and streetlights.

This is the kind of adventure that has been lacking on film for the last few years. It’s a powerful, entertaining and apparently true account of one boys journey Into the Wild. I give it 8 out of 10 stars.