Published Sep 26, 2007Into The Wild generated as much buzz as any major film at TIFF 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 when director Sean Penns fourth feature hits theatres this fall.
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)