Friday, October 26, 2007

Into the Wild

"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." -- Henry David Thoreau

I'm on a pretty good run of picking movies. I would say that the last 3 I've seen will be in my year-end Top 10. (3:10 to Yuma and Michael Clayton being the other two)

Into the Wild might be the best of the group. A 22 year old college graduate name Chris McCandless, chooses to opt out of the life lined up for him by his parents and society, instead choosing to donate his life savings, ditch his car, and begin a tramp's journey through America that culminates with him in the wilderness of Alaska. For a young man, he seems to have a defined moral code. A code that is influenced by the great authors he admires: London, Tolstoy, Thoreau.

The cast is outstanding. Katherine Keener turns in some of her best work (40-year-old Virgin, Being John Malkovich) as a hippy that Chris befriends. Vince Vaughn tones down his vince-vaughnness a little bit and turns in a good performance in a cameo role. And best of the group, I believe, is Hal Holbrook as an older widower that Chris brings out of his self-imposed shell.

In the title role is the relatively unknown actor, Emile Hirsch. His performance is revelatory and goes a long way towards helping the viewer buy into the character and the movie.

The characters he meets all identify with some part of Chris' life. Keener's character has not spoken to her son in several years and doesn't know where he is. As such, she understands what Chris' parents are feeling. Holbrook's character lost his child in death and sees Chris as a surrogate.

This is Sean Penn's best directing work. He gives the story and lot of space and doesn't crowd it with too much dialog. Penn also wrote the screenplay.

This movie is, quite simply, brilliant. I believe the viewer can take a lot from it. Don't get so caught up in what your are "supposed" to do, or what society expects from you. Don't get caught up in material things. They don't make you a better or more happy person.

This is based on Jon Krakaeur's book of the same name, which itself was an expansion of an article by Krakaeur. While I have read his other works, Into Thin Air (Mt. Everest disaster) and Under the Banner of Heaven (Mormons), I haven't read this. He's a great writer and I've heard that the movie is faithful to the book.

Last but not least is the incredible soundtrack highlighted with 9 songs by Eddie Vedder. Vedder, a close friend of Penn, and a contributor to an earlier Penn movie (Dead Man Walking), perfectly evokes nature and space and longing with his songs, serving as a perfect backdrop to McCandless's journey. Many of the songs even speak directly to the things McCandless strived for, such as the abandonment of the need for material goods - "Empty pockets will/Allow a greater sense of wealth." - in Far Behind. I'm a huge Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder fan and have been every since college. I'm going to get this CD this weekend.

Obviously, this movie comes highly recommended from me. At awards time, I really think this movie may see acting noms for Keener, Holbrook and Hirsch, writing and directing ones for Penn, and soundtrack for Vedder. Grade: A+

"There is pleasure in the pathless woods
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more."

Lord Byron


CyberKitten said...

Sounds intersting. I'll check it out.

Off to see 'Rendition' with the guys this afternoon. I've seen both good and bad reviews about it but it certainly sounds good.

Saw the risable 'Stardust' on Wednesday as part of a friends birthday evening out. There's two hours of my life I won't be getting back.

wunelle said...

I was intrigued by the book, but haven't read it. I did see Michael Clayton, and had a nice review written up (grade: A), but the dying hard drive sucked it down (that's what I get for saving my drafts on board instead of at Blogger!).

dbackdad said...

I was hoping that Stardust would be good because it's based on a Neil Gaiman novel, but from your appraisal, I don't think I'll be checking that movie out soon.

Let me know how Rendition is. I've heard the same mixed reviews that you have. The subject matter and actors make me want to see it, so hopefully it's decent.

Wunelle - I feel your pain. Before Blogger started the autosaving of drafts, I lost more than a few long posts.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: I was hoping that Stardust would be good because it's based on a Neil Gaiman novel.

Ah... That explains it. The cinema screen was packed & most people seemed to enjoy it. I just thought it was rather poor.

Rendition was *very* good. Clever, hard hitting & with some marvelous acting - especially from the Egyptian cast. I was most impressed.