Into the Wild Sean Penn

Into the Wild Sean Penn
It’s an iconic American story: 20something Christopher McCandless, upon graduating from college, ditches his car, burns all his money, dubs himself Alexander Supertramp and heads off on a nameless adventure in the American west. He wants to forge a new identity in the fires of loneliness and independence — that his quest seems ultimately selfish, misguided and deluded is also somehow quintessentially American. But don’t mistake McCandless’s journey — with all its attendant frustrations and missteps — with the remarkable storytelling accomplishments of Sean Penn’s film. Based on the true novel by Jon Krakauer, Penn guides Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown) through the process of shouldering pretty much the whole narrative, since it’s McCandless’s quest for solitude that’s the story’s most compelling aspect. That search led him eventually to Alaska and his own tragic end. Along the way, he meets various eccentrics, vagabonds and lovely, pleasant people who impact his journey (positively or not) in various ways. Penn makes interesting choices for that cast, from Oscar-nominated Hal Holbrook to Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn and in a key role, first-time actor Brian Dierker, discovered working behind the scenes on the film. This two-disc DVD offering doesn’t quite justify its presentation, with only two 20-minute featurettes — "The Story, The Characters” and "The Experience” — which cover much of the same ground: honouring McCandless’s memory, working with his parents, praising the sensitivity and vision of Penn. Yet like Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (which features another lost young man seeking wisdom in the north), Into the Wild only presents what it knows of these young seekers; what meaning can be found in their journey is an individual choice. That choice to be free is all McCandless ever wanted. (Paramount Vantage)