I believe this movie comes out for rent in February. An industry friend lent us an award screener to watch, so that is how my wife and I were able to see it. Also, when I heard about this movie coming out, it caught my interest because it’s based upon a book by the same name written by Jon Krakauer who is best known for his re-counting the horrific incident involving the group of climbers who died on Everest in May ’96.
Into the Wild is a Sean Penn directed film that tells the true story about a rich, pretty boy, hippy minded college grad named Chris McCandless who has some deep bitterness against his parents, especially his father. In order to “find” himself, and primarily to run away from his unforgiveness toward his family, he quits graduate school, burns all his money and credit cards, and drops completely out of society to backpack around the Southwestern United States. He is so committed to shedding his old existence he even renames himself “Alexander Supertramp.”
During his travels he encounters a variety of individuals who are depicted in the film as helping shape his life, especially giving him insight to his problems with his folks. He meets a R.V. living hippy couple, a farmer who hires him as part of his wheat harvesting crew, and a kind, lonely old man who teaches him leather work. As he sponges of his new found “friends” and they in turn are supposedly “shaping” his life, “Alexander” preaches to them his 20 something, leftist “wisdom” about the glories of a homeless lifestyle as opposed to the oppression of our modern society. Seeing that Sean Penn wrote the screenplay, I wouldn’t be surprised if much of this dialog comes more from his mind than the actual real McCandless.
The movie is comprised of scenes cutting back and forth from “Alexander’s” time on the road hitchhiking and the wilderness of Alaska where he lived in the wild for over 100 days. Inspired by one of his favorite authors, Jack London, Chris is set on hiking through Alaska. This is where the film begins: him being dropped off at the end of a snowed in road and his first days alone in the wilds of Alaska.
He soon finds a derelict school bus and he makes it his home. That made me wonder: how on earth did a school bus get out in the middle of no where in Alaska? I mean, you can’t drive it there and wouldn’t a person have the same problems attempting to tow it there, too? I digress… There, he lives off the land eating wild plants, aided by a guide book, and hunting small game like rabbits and other rodents with a .22 rifle. He even kills a moose, which is somewhat graphic for the squeamish. And of course, he journals his adventures which is why a semi-accurate movie can be made about his existence alone.
Before he descends too far into madness, he comes to his senses and attempts to hike on to the coast of Alaska, but is unable to leave due to a flooded river. Stuck at his bus, he is shown to have come to terms with the family ghosts of his past and dies of starvation after consuming some poisonous plants.
The film is well acted, especially by Emile Hirsch, the kid playing the main character. However, it is flawed with some strong language at certain points and a couple of scenes of ugly, hippy nudists, and hence the reason for the R rating. The main character is also seen naked from a distance when he is out in Alaska. Additionally, Penn wants to romanticize the transient lifestyle of this foolish narcissist as a legitimate alternative to otherwise forgiving and reconciling with those loved ones who have wronged us. This aspect of the film is probably the most troubling to me and the reason I thought it important for Christians to consider, because I could see other fool hearted youth from similar backgrounds take a cue from this film and seek out a homeless vagrant lifestyle who otherwise would not.
If you can deal with the occasional strong cursing and be ready with the remote to zip past the naked hippies and the semi-graphic scene of our main character field dressing a moose (which I thought was cool), the film is well crafted even down to the soundtrack which I would like to get someday. Overall, the movie presents a compelling picture of how an anarchist ideology coupled with personal bitterness and unforgiveness can be destructive.