It takes me a while to finally get in the mood to see a movie sometimes, mainly when someone ruins it for me. Such is the case with Into the Wild.
Spoilers, as I will not be able to review the film without mentioning really what happens. The movie (based off of the book of the same name) tells the story of a real life student and athlete named Chris McCandless (played wonderfully by Emile Hirsch). After graduating from Emory University and endless doors opened for his future, he decides to leave it all behind and venture towards Alaska into the wild. The more the film talks about him, the more we realize that he is not likely to survive (he does not).
We hear the story mainly narrated by his sister Carine (Jena Malone), who was the only real person he could connect to growing up. We learn of the past his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) have tried to hide from them, and how they made much of his life growing up miserable.
The movie has many characters to introduce us to (as well as Chris). There are two hippies, Rainey (Brian Dierker) and Jan (the irreplaceable Catherine Keener), Wayne (a rare dramatic role for Vince Vaughn, and done rather well), Kristen Stewart as Tracy, a young singer who catches Chris’s eye, and, most heartbreaking of all, Hal Holbrook as Ron (which gained Holbrook an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor). Their last scene is as moving as any well acted scene I can remember. The movie also stars Zach Galifianakis, but I admit I was so involved I did not even notice him (this was before The Hangover made him a star).
The characters that did not add to the film, I feel, were Mads (Thure Lindhardt) and Sonja (Signe Egholm Olsen). We meet them while Chris is traveling the Colorado River. He is there for a bit, but has to leave because the authorities are after him (he is traveling the river without a license).
The movie is directed by acting icon Sean Penn (who also did the screenplay), who adds more than just his acting advice (all the actors had to have been influenced by him because all are on their A game here). He seems to remind us of the beauty of nature without having to add to it (no camera trickery is used).
Parents, the movie is not for kids, as there is a good amount of swearing and some nudity (which I don’t think was really needed at all). I would say the most mature of High Schoolers and above are ok with it).
Looking up some information online, I realized a lot of people have become fans of Chris McCandless (some, sadly, have even died trying to find the place where he lost his life). I am not an outdoors person myself that much, but I would be interested to go. I, too, would not only want to see what Chris did, but feel I need to see it as well.
Overall: Four Stars ****