Movie Review: Into the Wild

All too often, Hollywood takes a best-selling novel and destroys it on the big screen. Terrific stories such as Harry Potter get made into crappy blockbusters and that special something that made the books so good gets chewed up and spit back out. However, there is always that rare movie that takes you by surprise. For me, that movie was none other than “Into the Wild.” Directed by renowned actor Sean Penn, “Into the Wild” is based off of the 1996 best-selling non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer. After graduating as a top scholar and athlete from Emory College in 1990, Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, decided to give away his life savings of $24,000 to Oxfam International and embark on a cross-country journey to Alaska. Armed with only the bare essentials, McCandless hitchhiked his way across America meeting hippies, nudists, retired army men and outlaws along the way until he finally reached the Alaskan wilderness. Leaving everything behind, McCandless began a journey of spiritual renewal and “walked into the wild.” “Into the Wild” transforms an arduous journey into a beautiful Hollywood adaptation. It strays off the beaten track of the typical book-to-film format, creating a refreshingly new style. First and foremost, the acting is superb. Emile Hirsch plays the character of his career. Hirsch acts out McCandless’ strange ideas and quirkiness with a skill not shown in any of his previous movies. The acting is not only believable but also engaging. In my own opinion, there is nothing more you could ask for from each and every actor in “Into the Wild.” To match the acting, Penn includes some gorgeous shots of America. McCandless’ journey was not shot on a stage or at a false location. Instead, Penn stayed true to the route taken by Christopher and shot every scene in the American wild. Consequently, “Into the Wild” is packed full of shots that capture the beauty of America. With skillful cinematography, Penn is able to capture the scenery and complex emotions of the characters in one shot. This is no small feat; especially considering this is one of Sean Penn’s first major directing projects. Few people have skillfully shot a movie as well as he has. The script, also written by Penn, is terrific. While a little on the short side, the movie is able to convey big emotions with simple lines. The perfect complement to such a great movie is a great soundtrack, and “Into the Wild” definitely has one. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder plays most of the instruments and sings all of his own songs throughout album. The folksy music has mellow beats and deep lyrics that define this brazen young man’s adventure. I love the music to this movie not only because it fits into the film so well, but because the music can stand by itself without the movie and still be worth listening to. It’s hard to find a fault in such a good movie. My only complaint (and it’s a small one) is that in this two-and-a-half-hour long movie a few scenes can seem a little misguided and out of place. However, the length of the movie just feels right. There may be a few cumbersome scenes, but it should not be much longer or shorter. “Into the Wild” is a triumph of a movie. It has the complete package: good acting, beautiful shots, a well-written script and a killer soundtrack. It’s about as perfect as they come, and I highly recommend that you find time to go watch this movie. It does what any great film does; it challenges you to look at the world differently. Penn suggests that there is something in everyone that needs to “just get out there.” Now, I’m wondering if maybe that’s what we all need. Grade: 6