Running Time: 148 minutes
Rated: Rated M (moderate coarse language, infrequent moderate violence, moderate nudity and themes).
This is a very impressive film in its characters, scope and the wonder and beauty of the locations. Many audiences will find it a very interesting and challenging story. On the other had, it would not be surprising if some audiences did not find the central character interesting or sympathetic and gave up on him and his journey. Into the Wild is also quite long at two and a half hours.
In the late 1990s, author Jon Krackauer wrote an article and then a book on the quest of a young man from a comfortable family who, after graduating college, gave his money to Oxfam, took his old car and went on what was a two year journey in search of meaning, of himself and of America. So much of his time was spent alone, in reading and writing a diary. This itself presents a challenge to a film-maker who has to find ways of communicating an inner life while keeping the narrative moving.
Sean Penn began preparing his film a decade earlier and was finally given the green light by the parents and sister of the young man, Christopher McCanless. The cast had many discussions with the family - and their allowing the film to be made is courageous as the parents do not come out of it well. Sean Penn has proven himself as an actor (from Dead Man Walking to Mystic River) and has directed some arresting films, The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard and The Pledge. He has fashioned a filmic story by working on several time levels to draw the audience into the complexities of the young hero's life and relationships: his timeline of his journey is followed alongside the detail of the final months of his time in Alaska at the end of the journey. Into these stories (along with chapter headings indicating birth, adolescence, manhood and, significantly, the getting of wisdom) flashbacks of childhood are inserted. These have been filmed in home movie style which makes these parts of the story more credible.
Emile Hirsch has appeared in a number of strong films, especially The Emperor's Club, Imaginary Heroes and Alpha Dog. This is certainly a breakthrough performance as the whole film focuses on him: the brash young graduate, the individualistic young man in search of meaning, the young man who works on farms and in Burger Kings to support his journey, the idealistic and na