Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who - in an attempt to rid himself of the bureaucracy and materialism of modern society - looked to living in the harsh serenity of the Alaskan wilderness.
The film begins with a bearded and weary Christopher in Alaska after two years on the road. It then flashes back to the day of his college graduation, where his inability to fit in with society shows itself when he reacts angrily to his parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) buying him a new car. Deciding to act upon his ambitions, Christopher gives all of his money to charity, destroys his credit cards, and makes way on a new life's journey to Alaska whilst taking on the pseudo name Alexander Supertramp. Along the way he meets various tramps and dwellers.
Into the Wild is a passionate project for writer/director Sean Penn who spent 10 years developing the film, creating an astonishing piece of cinema in the process which is sure to elevate Penn's status as a director of the highest regard. Penn does an exceptional job adapting Jon Krakauer's book to the big screen while not falling into the trap of portraying McCandless as a messiah or glamorizing his vagabond lifestyle.
Cinematographer Eric Gautier's beautifully shot scenery of snow covered mountains, lush green forests, and sun dried deserts showcases the captivating appeal nature had on McCandless. Yet to counterbalance this, Penn drives home the fact that around every corner awaits danger whether natural or manmade, and unless you are prepared for it, your fate will be sealed.
McCandless' death is a clear example of this. Even though he was a highly intelligent, insightful and resourceful young man, he was also steadfastly stubborn and had an air of pretentiousness about him which led him to make decisions that would cost him. The fact that he did not stock a map whilst in the wilderness clearly showed a disregard for safety, brought on by a stubborn indifference for the rules. If only he would have let go of his self imposed intelligent and moral superiority, than perhaps he would be alive to tell his own tale.
Portraying McCandless is rising young actor Emile Hirsch, who under the tutelage of Sean Penn (one of the world's premier actors) provides a breathtaking performance, vigorously meeting the physical and emotional demands placed upon him. Strong support comes from Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, and a heart breaking turn by Hal Holbrook.
An uplifting and enriching cautionary tale about one man's spiritual adventure on the road and in the wilderness, whose life and death has left and undeniable impression upon this viewer.