I had conflicting feelings while watching this film. On the one hand I was enjoying one of the better-made films of the year and on the other I was agonizing over the fact that many people were going to choose not to see this film for all the wrong reasons. Many will hear that the film is long and deep. This will cause people to shy away because we are creatures of comfort who tend not to appreciate films that make us think due to dumbing down effect that the years of watching summer films has caused and we want instant gratification. What does not work very often anymore are directors who make films that don't spoon feed us any answers, but rather cause us to question our own humanity and how we live our lives.
Sean Penn (The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard) has never been a conformist. He has often chosen films that do not do big business at the box office, but ask endless amounts of questions. Even in his personal life he is not afraid to ask questions even about the big issues (the war in Iraq) or the most powerful people (President Bush). It should not be surprising that he would make a film like "Into the Wild". The film gives us an inside perspective of the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch – Alpha Dog, The Girl Next Door), a well-off young man, who upon graduation from university rejects everything that the so-called modern world stands for and lives off the land. He gives away all his possessions and money to hike through the wilds of America. Christopher rejects his comfortable material-wise but dysfunctional family life, which goes against the American Dream. He does not want to earn more so he can own more and so he rejects the capitalist world for a much simpler one.
After watching the film you will find yourself yo-yoing back and forth over what your feelings for the main character are. Is he simply a spoiled kid who was rebelling or is he a young man listening to the call of nature to try and get back to a purer, cleaner way of living? Or is it somewhere in the middle? As the main character comes to his conclusion that happiness is something that can only be truly felt when experiencing it with others, we also realize that everything about this world (internet, DVDs, mp3 players) is causing us to lose our connection with the people around us. We are even beginning to find it an inconvenience to leave our home to go watch a film in room with other people. We, like Christopher have become disillusioned, and are secluding ourselves. Hopefully, we'll learn our lesson before, like Chris, it is too late.
Penn is trying to lead us back to a simpler kind of filmmaking and film. Go on this journey with him and you will never find yourself like Christopher – alone and starving. The cinematography alone is a reason to see the film as the wilds of America have rarely looked so beautiful on celluloid. Penn has accomplished more than making a film; he has constructed an essay in which you know exactly what he thinks about the character and how he thinks that life for us humans is a constant battle between the mind/soul and the body. Please, take the time to watch this slow moving film. Go home and think about it and the questions it asks. You'll respect yourself in the morning!
-"Into the Wild: The Story, the Characters"
-"Into the Wild: The Experience"
-Theatrical trailer (HD)