I watched Into the Wild with little background as to what it was about. I was expecting a life changing adventure but perhaps not of the kind I found. Into the Wild is badged as the Inspired true story of a young man seeking a life of freedom on the road that leads to the ultimate challenge of his life. I realise now having watched the movie that this statement gives so much of the story away.
Into the Wild is the based on true story of Christopher McCandles (played by Emile Hirsch) who at the age of 23 in 1990 and having just finished university, decides to abandon further study, future career and the family’s wealth by exploring life and nature in America. His first act in rejecting material things is to donate all the money in his college fund – $24,000USD – to OXFAM. McCandles is smart, athletic and loves the outdoors. He ultimately becomes focused on pursuing an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness where he finds an abandoned bus for shelter (which became known as the Magic Bus) and lives off the land with the assistance of a rifle, a few books and notes he has taken from a recreational hunter he meets on the way to Alaska.
But McCandles is troubled by a lot of things that go beyond materialism. The focus turns predominantly to concerns about his family and in particular his father’s past and his parent’s relationship (played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden). Despite this, McCandles is able to establish strong friendships on his journey to Alaska including with:
All these characters (and others) have an impact on McCandles but its fair to say that McCandles has a much bigger impact on them. He conveys a maturity of perspective in his interactions with them that he struggles to apply to his own life.
I do however feel for his sister Carine (Jena Malone) with whom he is apparently close but does not contact for almost two years. Carine is younger and still living at home so has to deal with not only the lack of contact but also the reaction of their parents.
Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed this exceptional movie which is based on the book published in 1993 by Jon Krakauer. The story of McCandles’ search for meaning has been interpreted in many different ways and criticism was directed at him for being ill prepared for the Alaskan wilderness given that he didn’t even have a map among other things. Despite some of the accusations having a sinister edge, McCandles has emerged as somewhat of a hero.
Despite its seriousness, this movie is full of great one-liners that I won’t spoil for you here. McCandles does journal his Alaskan experience and one of his final Alaskan journal entries is:
Happiness only real when shared
This really resonated with me and probably explains why I am unlikely to ever become a solo hiker. So I’ll leave the solo hiking to Tim!
This is a must-see movie not just for the spectacular scenery, diverse characters and amazing cast and direction but also because it is the story of searching for life’s meaning. But sometimes it may be closer than you think!
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Under $16.00 AUD on DVD
Into the Wild DVD
This review was done with product purchased by Australian Hiker