Into The Wild generated as much buzz as any major film at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival for a few reasons. Eddie Vedders score alone is a hip little selling point, add Emile Hirschs complex breakthrough performance and Eric Gautiers jaw-dropping Alaskan cinematography and it means prestige and perhaps some profit for director Sean Penns fourth feature.
Chris McCandless graduates university at the top of his class. His controlling upper-crust parents hope hell attend law school. Instead, he abandons his possessions and I.D. and walks into the wilderness. He backpacks through the U.S., meeting memorable characters in a series of vignettes, including Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughan and Hal Holbrook as an old man who hopes to adopt Chris. His ability to rhyme off a Thoreau quote for any occasion convinces them hes more than just a misguided young idealist. He plans to spend a winter in the Alaskan wilderness but is wildly unprepared and dies of starvation.
Excerpts from McCandlesss diary are the strength of Jon Krakauers book and also a major fixture of the movie, co-written by Penn and Krakauer. Some will hate McCandless for his self-righteous rejection of societal values and consider him a flake. Theres plenty of evidence to support this; he does after all, burn his money and christen himself "Alexander Supertramp.
Some have criticised Krakauer for romanticising the destructive whims of a naive undergrad. Others consider McCandless a modern-day hero. The book is a multi-faceted mystery that attempts to understand why this happened. Penns film simplifies matters; it celebrates Chriss free-spirited search for truth through slow-motion odes to mans connection with the wilderness. This is unquestionably Penns finest work as a director. (Paramount Vantage) Mike Sauve (Paramount Vantage)