Into the Wild – a review by Michele Canning
With ‘Into the Wild’, Sean Penn dons his director’s hat to tell the real life story of straight-A student Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who in 1992 donated all his savings to charity, dropped out of society and embarked on a journey of self-discovery, changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, with only the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy and Jack London for company.
Penn effectively paints a picture of a young man at odds with society in general and his dysfunctional, materialistic parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) in particular.
Along his journey through the backroads of America he crosses paths with an ageing hippy couple (Catherine Keener and Brian Dieker), a grain harvester (Vince Vaughan), an infatuated teenager (Kristen Stewart) and a lonely old man (Hal Holbrook), learning valuable life lessons from each encounter.
Hirsch portrays McCandless as a charming, intellectual, yet troubled individual, who nevertheless touches the lives of all those he meets, and whose ultimate journey to the frozen wastes of Alsaska eventually leads to a damascene conversion to the value of human friendship.
An uncredited supporting character is the great American wilderness, which Penn uses to great effect in all its beautiful, and on occasion, desolate glory.
A worthy mention must also go to Eddie Vedder’s Neil Young-esque Americana soundtrack, which accompanies the scenery to great effect.
Into the wild is a moving exploration of the human condition, as visually stunning as it is thought provoking. Ultimately, while McCandless’ actions cost him his life, his view of the corrupting influence of consumerism and the great hunt for possessions at the heart of the darkness in society may be even more relevant now in a post-economic meltdown world than it was in 1992.