run time: 148 mins
considered: Adventure, Biography, Drama
director: Sean Penn
starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Brian H. Dierker, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Halbrook, Zach Galifianakis
movie summary: Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who didn’t like the direction his life is going. Upon graduating high school Chris decides it’s time to disappear and live on his own somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness. He leaves his Atlanta, Georgia home to begin his trek across the country where he meets a handful of people who help him on his journey to reach America’s northernmost state.
In 1990 Chris graduates from high school and has enrolled into law school with a savings of $24,000. He decides to donate those savings to a local charity before cutting up his credit cards, burning his passport, and driver’s license. Without leaving a note for his parents Walt (William Hurt) and Billie (Marcia Gay Harden) or sister Carine (Jena Malone), Chris gets in his beat up car and disappears. While driving along the southern US border he finds his way to Arizona where a flash flood takes out his car forcing him to continue his journey on foot. When he reaches California he meets a hippie couple Jan Burres (Catherine Keener) and her on again off again boyfriend Rainey (Brian H. Dierker), they agree to take Chris in who has changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. After spending a few days with that couple he heads back to the mid-west where he meets Wayne Westerberg (Vince Vaughn) who agrees to hire Alex for the summer mowing his wheat fields. His career as a mower gets cut short when Wayne gets arrested forcing his business to shut down.
Alex uses the money he has earned mowing to buy a kayak and go down the Colorado River without a permit. The river patrol try to track him but in an attempt to flee capture he floats down into Mexico. He loses his kayak in Mexico forcing him to hitchhike back to the border and try to reenter the US without any identification. Once he gains entry back home he tries to hitchhike back to California, no one gives him a ride so he begins to ride trains until he gets roughed by the police for getting illegal rides. He reaches Los Angeles and checks into a homeless shelter where he stays for about an hour before leaving to pursue a more quiet lifestyle. On his way north he meets Jan and Rainey again in northern California, this time they are traveling along with a beautiful young girl named Tracy (Kristen Stewart). Together the young pair spend time together signing songs by campfire and selling items a Tracy’s yard sale. Alex informs every one of his plans and dreams of making it to Alaska and despite Tracy’s attempt to keep him with her he leaves and heads north.
Alex makes it to another California town where he meets Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) who lost his family in a car crash many years ago. The pair become best friends while Alex gathers up the gear he needs to survive the wilderness. Ron is really sad when Alex leaves but he promises to come back after spending a few months in Alaska. He leaves for the final time before crossing into Canada and reaching Alaska. While hiking into the middle of no where he stumbles across an old abandoned bus that he decides to use as a shelter, he sets up his camp and begins to take in the wide open spaces. In order to eat past the supplies he brought he begins to hunt and pick berries, when the animals don’t come around he runs out of things to eat and is stuck eating only a handful of berries a day. He documents his travels in a journal, describing his time on the road he realizes that he was happier with his friends and family then he currently is living alone isolated in this bus. After realizing that life is actually better when you surround yourself with people he decides to pack up and head back to the southern US when he walks into a major problem. While hiking to the bus he crossed a low-level brook, many months later the brook has turned into a raging river that he can no longer cross. Alex is crushed that he is not going to be able to make back so hikes back to the bus to eat more berries. He continues to document everything in his journal while waiting for the right moment to break free.
my thoughts: Into the Wild was recommended to me by my friend Danny. He told me this is the only movie he can watch over and over and it’s just as good. He was surprised to learn I have never seen it so I agreed to check it out sometime. When I finally got around to it last week I am sorry to say this movie did not impress me at all. When Danny was talking about the movie he made me watch the trailer and I was under the impression that this movie was an action packed thrill ride about living in the wilderness, not a slow boring story about a kid being an idiot living on a bus in the middle of no where.
I understand Chris/Alex was on a mission of self discovery, that he wanted an epic tale to tell his kids some day about how distracted humans have become in the real world, and that it is possible to have a connection with nature. I just don’t understand why he would go as far as he did. I am a Virgo which means we plans things, I would have had a plan and then a back up plan, I would have made sure there were other ways and means to survive. I respect this guy for doing what he did and there are some people who do stuff like this every day, I just didn’t feel the urge to drop everything in my life and disappear. I grew up in the White Mountains in the New Hampshire and was never a huge fan of camping and hiking, I have a city personality and will take skyscrapers over mountains any day. Sadly those personal feelings interfered with my feelings for this movie because I couldn’t relate to the story.
By the time the movie had reached 25 minute mark I was disinterested and struggled to make it through the rest even the parts with Kristen Stewart! I was so bored with it that I decided to look it up online and read about the ending two hours before I watched it unfold. I did not like how the story kept switching from past to present as he was telling the story from the writings in his journal. The movie may have been more appealing if it was a straightforward journey instead back and forth.
There are many great spots about this movie that have garnered it much success with critics, Emile Hirsch steals the show with his acting both in the city and in the wilderness. He puts in a lot of effort to tell the story with every possible detail right down to growing a scruffy bread and wearing the same unwashed clothes day in and day out. He is surrounded by a solid supporting cast that includes Vince Vaughn (in a serious role for once), Catherine Keener, Brian H. Dierker, Hal Holbrook, William Hurt, and Marcia Gay Harden. You may also be surprised to learn that Zach Galifianakis has a small role as Kevin while Jena Malone has a major role in telling the story from her family’s point of view.
Sean Penn wrote and directed this movie based on the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. Penn does a fantastic job capturing the scenery and characters throughout the movie, but I just wish he would have played out the story with a different format.
final thoughts: Into the Wild was a success with many critics and could be a great movie for those who enjoy narrative story telling with little to no action.
my star rating: 5 out 10
imdb.com: 8.2 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 82% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 4 out 4