Chris (Emile Hirsh) is a promising college graduate. Shortly after graduating, Chris gives his life savings to charity, burns all of his identification, and begins hitchhiking across America, his ultimate goal being Alaska. Citing passages from his heroes, Thoreau and Jack London, he is determined to escape society and get back to nature. Along his journey, he encounters several characters who will shape his life.
 

4
A liberating coming of age story.

In 1992, 22-year-old college graduate Christopher McCandless abandoned his upper-middle class existence. He gave away his money and possessions, and hit the road, for two years hitch-hiking around America.

McCandless’s incredible life was reconstructed in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into The Wild – an utterly heartbreaking read. For the past 10 years Sean Penn as writer and director has worked to bring the story to the screen.

What he’s delivered is a visually captivating, structurally ambitious but overly romantic view of uncompromising individualism – a theme that obviously resonates with the outspoken Penn.

As McCandless, Emile Hirsch gives a wrenching physical performance. He lost about 20 kilos over the course of the shoot.

A talented supporting cast shine as the road friends who want to save McCandless from himself. But the film’s best performance is from 82-year-old Hal Holbrook as an elderly loner named Ron and I’d say he’s a shoe-in for an Oscar.

The characters – and McCandless’s ultimate realisation about where happiness lies – do mitigate somewhat against the inevitable accusation that Penn has turned his subject into a Christ-like figure.

Penn’s intention is to show McCandless how he saw himself – as Alexander 'SuperTramp' the spiritual quester. But while the film is faithful to the essence of the character, it should have included vital information from the book that’d better allow us make up our own minds about McCandless. Alaskans for example, are used to young men testing themselves against the wilderness and McCandless was either foolhardy or mentally ill.

Into The Wild is undoubtedly blinkered, but because there’s no denying the power, passion and artistry of what’s on screen.