An adventure worth watching

Stephen DeFilippo

“Into the Wild” is an adventure, a cinematic beauty, and a terrific accomplishment for filmmaker Sean Penn and the entire cast.

The film is based on the true story and book by Jon Krakauer which tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate who abandons society and is driven into the wild by his frustration with the world and by the dysfunction of his family.

Emile Hirsch plays McCandless and performs how actors should: he lives the part, and breaths the air and it shows in every scene. His delivery is genuine and physically he goes from the fit college grad to the malnourished, disjointed dropout of society. He acts with his body in the same extreme vein of Christian Bale in “The Machinist.”

The journey is captured in diary-like snippets accompanied by photo-essayist shots that could stand by themselves in National Geographic. From the Arizona desert to the Alaskan wilderness, mountain ranges, railroads, rivers, lakes, suburbs, flora, and fauna bless the screen.

The film is rendered in ways that make it seem like art house cinema. Shaky shots, blurs, and close-ups are all used effectively to maximize viewer association with the action on screen. The story is broken into five chapters, switching from the journey to the present action set in Alaska. McCandless’ sister played by Jena Malone narrates the film, not a line of dialogue or narration is in excess.

The film doesn’t tiptoe around the issues that it touches. In one scene McCandless and his wheat-farming boss share a moment where Christopher describes his view of “them” or Society as parents, hypocrites, politicians, and pricks.

Audiences have become accustom to the formula of Hollywood narratives, special effects and predetermined, overproduced emotion that is usually delivered as one big bang at the end. Here, the emotion leaks out with each realization Christopher reaches, each exchange of words with the strangers he meets. It’s not a standard to feel the way you do when watching “Into the Wild” and nor should it be for if it was, we’d be a very spoiled population.

The soundtrack is beautiful on its own. But when coupled with the images on the screen it proves to be an epic combination. The songs were mostly written and all preformed by Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam front man). You would expect nothing but an acoustic companion to match the tone of the film. But here it’s so good you would think Vedder himself burnt his social security card and money, and cast off into the wild to write the songs.

Sean Penn had already proved himself an actor in past efforts such as “21 Grams” and “I am Sam” But here as writer and director of “Into the Wild” he deserves even more praise, perhaps even from the Academy with picture of the year.

“Into the Wild” is a selfless social commentary, a chilling masterpiece, and a genuine tribute to the life of Christopher McCandless.