"No Man Is an Island"
What You Need To Know:
INTO THE WILD is a bittersweet, profound, redemptive masterpiece. Amazingly, it is impressively directed and written by actor Sean Penn. Emile Hirsch is superb. There are also brilliant, heart-rending cameos by Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook. INTO THE WILD is an amazing achievement. It is an adventure story worthy of Jack London. Even so, the movie contains some very strong foul language and extreme naturalistic nudity, so MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong caution.
(BBB, CCC, RoRo, LLL, VV, S, NNN, AA, DD, M) Very strong ultimately God-centered worldview with very strong positive references to Christianity and Christian virtues, including protagonist finds peace through God, man talks briefly about salvation in Jesus Christ, elderly Catholic man discusses God and the importance of forgiveness, and the command to love thy neighbor is mentioned at a crucial moment, plus some strong Romantic elements where a young man who idolizes Nature seeks to escape society and its rules only to find God and some of His rules; 29 obscenities (including some “f” words), two strong profanities and four light profanities; strong violence with blood includes railroad man beats up young man riding an open car, man shoots moose and cuts off some meat, and wolves eat moose carcass; implied sex as middle-aged couple shown hugging in bed, 16-year-old girl offers herself to 23-year-old man but he tells her he can’t because of her age but they hug goodbye later, and talk about children finding out that their parents were not married to each other when they met but committed adultery; shots of upper female nudity when man runs into young couple sunning themselves, full male nudity as man floats on his back down a river, and long distance shots of full nudity when two men go by a nudist colony; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking and apparent marijuana use; and, adults son lies to parents, rebellion and parents bicker.
INTO THE WILD is a literate, bittersweet, profound, and redemptive masterpiece. Amazingly, it is impressively directed and adapted from a book by actor Sean Penn, whose sensitivity and intelligence toward current socio-political issues has been very underwhelming and even offensively crude, to say the least.
Set in the early 1990s, INTO THE WILD stars Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless. Just graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with high honors, Chris tells his parents and sister that he’s thinking about law school. Chris, however, has other plans.
You see, Chris and his sister have discovered a secret about his bickering parents’ relationship that they never told their children: the parents aren’t really married. Thus, Chris has rejected their materialistic middle class lifestyle and forsaken society for the Romantic worldview of Thoreau.
Secretly, Chris donates the rest of his college fund to charity and takes his beat-up old Datsun across country. He plans to make his way eventually to Alaska, where he wants to just live alone in the wild. A flash flood in the desert moves Chris to abandon his car, burn the rest of his money and change his name to Alexander Supertramp.
As the movie shows Chris’s trek into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992, the movie switches back to the places and people he meets in South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Washington in his circuitous journey to Alaska. Meanwhile, narration by Chris and his sister reveals the things about his family and society that have been eating away at his soul.
Without giving away what happens, in the end, Chris finds that Nature can be beautiful but also incredibly dangerous and even ugly. In fact, he discovers that his Romantic notions of Nature and human civilization are not true. More importantly, however, Chris also finds God. Along the way, Chris learns the importance of forgiveness, the principle of love thy neighbor, and the truth that happiness is not real unless it is shared.
INTO THE WILD is a beautiful story based on true events written in a book by Jon Kracauer, which Sean Penn adapted himself. Though his character is not always likeable, Emile Hirsch does a superb job. There are also brilliant cameos by Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn and, last but not least, Hal Holbrook, who gives one of the best, most redemptive and heartbreaking performances in the last few years. The characters Chris meets as he travels in the mainland of the U.S.A. include two older hippie lovers who become a family to Chris, two young Nordic free spirits, a 16-year-old folk singer who develops a crush on Chris, an old Christian preacher living in the desert who talks to Chris about Jesus, and an elderly Catholic veteran who teaches Chris about forgiveness and God that will inspire Chris at the end.
INTO THE WILD includes some strong foul language and shots of very strong nudity in naturalistic settings. For instance, the camera shows Chris floating on his back completely naked down the Colorado River. Also, there are many shots of upper female nudity when Chris accidentally runs into a young Nordic woman with red hair and her blonde boyfriend sunning themselves along the banks of the Colorado River. Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution regarding INTO THE WILD.
INTO THE WILD is about the spiritual journey of a troubled soul. As such, it is a tender, soulful movie that pierces the heart and invigorates the mind. There are parts of this movie, especially at the end, that are among the most inspirational moments in recent memory, often while being extremely poignant and bittersweet at the same time. INTO THE WILD is an amazing achievement. It is an adventure story worthy of Jack London.