TORONTO 2007

TIFF Review: Into the Wild

by
September 12, 2007

  • US Release Date: September 21, 2007
  • Genre: Adventure, Drama
  • MPAA: Rated R (for language and some nudity)
  • Running Time: 140 minutes
  • Directed by: Sean Penn
  • on IMDb
  •    6.5/10
“Happiness only real when shared.”
- Emile Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp

The quote above comes from quite close to the end of the film and although it doesn't sum up most of why Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) ventures into the Alaskan wilderness alone, it does hit the hardest. Into the Wild follows Alexander Supertramp (the name Christopher gives himself) on his adventure across the country and eventually up into Alaska to live off of the land. He starts off as a college graduate, the son of two unsuited parents, and brother of Carine (Jena Malone) who narrates the story. Based on the non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer, Alexander decides to leave home, burn all of his money and identification cards, and hitchhike his way around the US meeting new friends and growing into a man before hiking into Alaska and discovering his new home - the "magic" bus.

As much as I really wanted to love the free-spirited Into the Wild, Sean Penn is a terrible director and the story suffers from his inexperience in great direction. He's good at creating individual moments through some rather experimental "indie-film-like" work, but overall the flow of the story didn't pull together in the way it needed. The film felt fairly jagged; each move from place to place was just another chunk and did not connect smoothly in what was a beautiful story overall. Emile's often cheerful and humorous attitude, while still free-spirited and well acted, didn't fit with Penn's lack of pace and flow - like two puzzle pieces that should fit together but don't.

Alexander Supertramp hikes his way through the wilderness with his trusty backpack throughout Into the Wild.Into the Wild Review

While the film could easily have been better, it did achieve a particular level of bliss in how well it captured Alex's passionate will to live openly with nature. His views on life were empathetically depicted and chillingly felt all while also maintaining a vast distance from a comparison to a tree-hugging, nature-loving hippie. By the end a connection to Alex is well established and it's then where most will fall in love with Into the Wild; it's then where most will smile and applaud a film that simply tells a great story.

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  • Heckle
    Alex...how was the soundtrack in this? I'm curious.
  • Steve Davis
    If this reviewer doesn't know the difference between a novel and a work of nonfiction (which Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild undoubtedly is), I can't take his analysis very seriously.
  • Heckle
    Why do you say he doesnt know the difference?

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