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Into The Wild

November 2, 2007  |  2:00pm
Into The Wild

Sean Penn adapts and directs 1996 bestseller

Director/Writer: Sean Penn (Based on the book by Jon Krakauer)
Cinematographer: Eric Gautier
Starring: Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Jena Malone, Vince Vaughn
Studio/Run Time: Paramount Vantage, 140 mins.

Based on Jon Krakauer’s acclaimed nonfiction book, Sean Penn’s film adaptation of Into The Wild traces the post-collegiate wanderings of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a rich kid who graduates from Emory, donates his entire life savings to charity and hitchhikes his way deep into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless isn’t particularly sympathetic—he’s unbearably self-righteous; he blames all his problems on his bickering, millionaire parents (sublimely played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden); he changes his name to Alexander Supertramp; he devastates his friends and family—and without the skepticism and broad, young-man-in-the-wilderness context Krakauer’s book provided (Krakauer interspersed McCandless’ story with comparable narratives from naturalists like John Muir). It’s hard to stomach McCandless’ arrogance. Sean Penn may have wanted to school his viewers on the toxicity of capitalist society, but his script (which relies far too heavily on voiceovers) feels more didactic than edifying. Ultimately, the only true, uncontestable lesson Into the Wild offers is this: Don’t swallow fistfuls of weird berries, and always pack more than ten pounds of rice. Turns out humans can’t survive on hubris alone.

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