Into the Wild, as some of you probably know from back when the film was released, is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who leaves his privileged life behind to live off the land and by his own means, setting off on a self-titled adventure into the Alaskan wilderness to make his home and truly find himself. For those who know the story already, you know it doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, but Into the Wild doesn’t focus on that; it decides to focus on the celebration of the lifestyle McCandless chose for himself, only delving into the rougher parts near the end when the story needs to be finished.
The film is mostly a categorical account of Chris’s adventures, hopping back and forth between his days in the ‘magic bus’ as he calls it, and the years leading up to him leaving his life behind and how he got there. All the while, narration from Chris’ sister details his story and what must have been his inner thoughts, and for once the narration seems perfectly suited for the film, rather than being intrusive or expository. Having all the inner thoughts and dialogue relegated to the narration leaves a bare-bones experience for the Chris we see in the ‘now’, and we experience exactly how he lives his life on the road, and in the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.
There were many little moments, almost imperceptible, that showcased what a great eye director Sean Penn and his cinematographer had for certain shots and their intrinsic beauty, and not only of the landscapes; there was one shot, with a campfire reflected in Chris’ glasses, that I really took to, as well as a tracking shot that ends in fireworks reflected in a can of water, and these were but a few examples of many throughout the film. Another surprise were the actors, especially actors who played against type; Emile Hirsch and Hal Holbrook, for instance, did exceptionally well, but I was floored to see Vince Vaughn actually acting for once rather than just being Vince Vaughn in all of his movies, and he did very well. The film also benefits from a great soundtrack, rustic and wholesome with a very simplistic feel; it fits in perfectly with the mindset of the film and of its main character.
I liked this film a lot, mostly because this style of living highly appeals to me; of course, a lot more preparation and knowledge is needed before delving into an undertaking of this nature, preparation that McCandless saw as just hesitation in the face of courage. Some would go so far as to say his recklessness was his undoing, and it’s hard to disagree, but the ideals is what the film focuses on, and the ideals are what’s really important; finding happiness in the face of an increasingly consumerist and greed-focused civilization by returning to one’s roots. That’s a philosophy we can all take to heart and strive to live by a little more than we probably do now, and this film, though sobering in its tale of reality, can teach us much about how to get there.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10