Based on true events, Into the Wild traces the meandering path taken by Emory University college graduate Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), a thoughtful young man from an upper middle-class family who decided to donate his entire savings to charity. He then took off on an incredible journey of discovery, a journey which sparked heated debate after his untimely death.
Christopher wanted to be free of his dysfunctional home life and instead live life day-to-day, accountable to no one but himself. Working odd jobs and traveling by foot when not hitching rides, McCandless made his way across America. He met interesting characters as he gathered supplies and prepared his body physically for the ultimate adventure destination: Alaska. Everywhere he went people warned him against hitchhiking up to Alaska. To try and survive in that inhospitable climate without formal training or even a backup plan should things go wrong – which they did – was foolhardy. But McCandless had his mind made up and, as the facts bear out, there was no stopping him.
While so many actors his age have fallen victim to the ‘I’m a celebrity so therefore I’m above the law’ syndrome, Emile Hirsch has just gone about the business of creating a resumé loaded with incredible performances – mostly in independent films. Hirsch was excellent in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and equally terrific in the little-seen The Mudge Boy as well as in Imaginary Heroes. Sure, he’s gone the studio route a couple of times – Alpha Dog being the most notable entry - but it’s really been within the independent film world that Hirsch delivers his best performances.
With Into the Wild, Hirsch kicked up his performance to an even higher level. Working with director Sean Penn brought out the best in Hirsch who dropped down to just 115 pounds in order to play McCandless at the end of his journey.
Penn filmed Into the Wild on location and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Penn convinced Eddie Vedder to contribute to the score and Vedder’s music fits the film and the gorgeous landscapes perfectly.
After watching Into the Wild it’s not hard to understand why so many people have connected with McCandless’ story. McCandless’ journey is alternately heart-wrenching, frustrating, and inspiring, and Penn’s film does justice to McCandless’ tale.
Into the Wild was directed by Sean Penn and is rated R for language and some nudity.