My Movie Review: "Into the Wild"

"Into the Wild", Jon Krakauer's book detailing the final two years of drifter/adventurer Chris McCandless, is one of my top three all time reads. So when I heard last year that Sean Penn was working on a movie adaptation this quickly became my most anticipated film on '07. I was trying not to get my hopes up. The book was so amazing that surely there was no way Penn could recreate such a moving and soul stirring story. What I discovered was he not only met the books magnificence but may have exceeded it.

Sean Penn's beautifully filmed "Into the Wild" will capture the soul of any true lover of nature, adventure, and mystery. Christopher McCandless, the film's central figure, completely cuts himself off from his dysfunctional family to pursue a life in the wild. McCandless (perfectly portrayed by Emile Hirsch) is a real person, following the call of the wild in his heart, while, at the same time, punishing his family and deftly avoiding the deep emotional connection that he realizes, too late, is his ultimate goal. Chris's journey is at once exhilarating, heartbreaking, devastating, and redemptive. And Penn's incredibly honest and realistic script does a great service to all of the characters involved. There are no villains, only human lives, striving for some sense of peace, identity, and meaning.

The acting is flawless. Besides Hirsch, everyone is spot on. William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden take the roles of his parents that could have been easily forgotten characters and make them gut-wrenchingly real. We feel the ache of longing that Jena Malone as McCandless' sister has for her wandering brother. Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker hit just the right notes as a hippie couple with whom Chris bonds. And Hal Holbrook almost steals the movie from Hirsch as an older man whom McCandless befriends prior to his ultimately fatal trek into the Alaskan wilderness. Holbrook should win this year's best supporting actor Oscar just as Hirsch deserves that title for leading actor.

The cinematography is breathtaking. We are right there with Chris. The music was an added bonus as Eddie Vedder lends his original music and sets the right tone of reflective songs.

One idea I was drawn to in the film that I didn't take hold of in the book was the thought that in the end, the one thing that Chris had been running from - relationships, became the one thing he desired most. It's as if when he looked back over his short 24 years on this earth he finally realized that the happiness he was seeking didn't come from being alone but from all the friendships he had created along the way.

Best film of 2007! 4 Stars

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