Into the Wild Sean Penn

Into the Wild Sean Penn

Into The Wild generated as much buzz as any major film at TIFF for a few reasons. Eddie Vedder’s score alone is a hip little selling point, add Emile Hirsch’s complex breakthrough performance and Eric Gautier’s jaw-dropping Alaskan cinematography and it means prestige and perhaps some profit when director Sean Penn’s fourth feature hits theatres this fall.

Chris McCandless graduates university at the top of his class. His controlling upper-crust parents hope he’ll 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 he’s 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 McCandless’s diary are the strength of Jon Krakauer’s 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. There’s 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. Penn’s film simplifies matters; it celebrates Chris’s free-spirited search for truth through slow-motion odes to man’s connection with the wilderness. This is unquestionably Penn’s finest work as a director. (Paramount Vantage)