Movie Review: Sean Penn's Into the Wild (2007)

Sean Penn's Into the Wild

When Christopher McCandless graduates from Emory University, his parents are sure he will follow the path they have set for him and become a lawyer. McCandless wants nothing to do with that. He has grown up watching his parents choke on the American dream. They seem terribly unhappy.

Instead, he wants to break out of the trap, give away all of his money, take only the most essential possessions on his back, and work his way up to his ultimate adventure: surviving alone in Alaska. He left home in summer of 2000. By April of 2002, he was ready to walk into the wilds of Alaska.

On September 6, 2002, McCandless's malnourished body was found dead in a bus he had survived in for the past several months. What lead him to this fate? Dying alone is no man's dream. Primary source material for this movie and the book it was based on are the journals McCandless filled while he was on the road.

We see his trek across the country. The people he met and befriended. Everyone seemed to like him. Some people were ready to adopt him or make him their pseudo-son. He made no judgments and seemed to have no vices. He doesn't drink too much or accept inappropriate offers from under-aged girls. And he is single-minded in his goal. We also see the sadder side of this story, the sister and parents he left behind. They seem haunted by his absence.

The performances are amazing by all characters. This film will make you question the choices you made when you were at those essential years after college. There is one telling scene where McCandless is walking the streets of a bustling metropolis. He people watches and sees a well-dressed man eating fine food at the table. The man seems confident and happy as he gorges himself. McCandless looks again and see his own face instead of the man's. And he runs as fast as he can away from the city. He knows he is not immune to the charms of wealth and suburban living, and it scares him to death. He knows one thing: he doesn't want to become his parents.

I felt sad at McCandless's fate, but at least he lived in a way he believed. For more information about McCandless's story, read this article, which ran in Outside magazine in June of 1993.


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Opra said…
Very interesting! However, this case is not rare. The period after college is one of the most difficult and many people can't decide what they will do in the future.
Val said…
I was both saddened & discouraged by this story (I read the book but couldn't quite "get into" the film); Krakauer's book IMO points more towards a mental breakdown ultimately causing McCandless's untimely demise...