Review: Into the Wild

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A free-spirited and dysfunctional look at a young man who made a stupid decision. The biographical, survival drama released in 2007 (following the 1996 book) which portrays the incredible travels and unfortunate death of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch).

A brief overview for those who don’t know the story: educated and well off 22 year old decides to drop the conventional way his life is predicted to go by his expecting and dysfunctional family. He gives away all his money to charity and literally gets lost across the USA hoping to one day get to Alaska to have the ultimate experience of living off the land. He refrains from telling his family where he is and deliberately ensures ways he can’t get found i.e, ditching his trashed car’s license plate in a commercial bin. His travels across the great wide open of the USofA are amazing considering he lived off the bones of his arse to do it – sadly in the end to his detriment. By not being appropriately educated on living in the harsh Alaskan wild, he eventually gets poisoned by eating incorrect berries and starves to death.

The film raises several ideas. Some people have classed him as a hero, others have called him an idiot. I call him both. The amount of living and determination he had to just give something a bloody go (something extremely lacking in this society) told me that he could at least say he had lived ‘enough’. The flip side is to imagine what he could have taught other people around him; wrote books, composed motivational speeches if he had completed his journey and lived to tell the tale.

However his death is overshadowed by his life in those two years and by the character and individuality of the other ramblers he meets along the way. It’s a special view into a different and isolated way of life. An enchanting (and probably most popular) part of the movie is the time he spends in Slab City, California; specifically when he meets the overseer of Salvation Mountain, Leonard Knight, who plays himself. A very real scene. I am unsure except from forums by keyboard warriors that it apparently wasn’t scripted.

It’s a great story for so many elements. Not just the travel, but the story of McCandless’s past narrated by his sister (played by Jena Malone) in regards to their troubled family life and friction with their parents. I can’t help but feel sorry for his family despite the repressed and fucked up attitude toward each other and ‘what the neighbours think’.  Not knowing at all where he is until they are informed by the authorities that his body was found would have been a living hell.

Yet the boy lived, he really did – and he could have lived much, much more. It’s a great movie with ethereal cinematography, bittersweet characters and a message that you really can take risks – just approach them with a little education.

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