Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2007. Paramount Vantage, Art Linson Productions, Into the Wild, River Road Entertainment. Screenplay by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer. Cinematography by Eric Gautier. Produced by Art Linson, Sean Penn, Bill Pohlad. Music by Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder. Production Design by Derek R. Hill. Costume Design by Mary Claire Hannan. Film Editing by Jay Cassidy. Academy Awards 2007. American Film Institute 2007. Golden Globe Awards 2007. National Board of Review Awards 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Heartbreaking examination of the true story of Chris McCandless, a college graduate from a well-to-do family who decides to drop it all and head for the wilderness. Abandoning his car in the desert and hitchhiking west, McCandless (who now calls himself Alexander Supertramp) encounters kind-hearted hippies Brian H. Dierker and Catherine Keener (exquisite as usual) who take him in as family, has an encounter with some friendly fun Danes, enjoys a little romance with a teenaged folk singer (Kristen Stewart) and comes under the protective wing of an elderly widower (Hal Holbrook in a magnificent performance) before achieving his dream of living in the wilderness of Alaska with nothing but his wits to support him. It would be easy for director Sean Penn to make a sympathetic victimization of McCandless’s story, pointing the blame at his dysfunctional parents (here played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) and justifying the young man’s need for solitude, but he instead travels a much deeper route. Sure, our hero’s journey into loneliness has its reasons, but Penn regrets McCandless’s folly as much as he admires it, creating a film that is among the most beautiful and depressing you’ll ever get to see. A fully unpretentious performance by Emile Hirsch in the lead keeps this astonishing film on track, with a narrative that keeps threatening to slip out of the loop but never really does. If the scenery doesn’t do it for you though, watch it for the scenes between Hirsch and Holbrook, which really are extremely moving.