1 May 2008 | mstomaso
2008's Version of On the Road?
Who Is Chris McCandless? A true supertramp? An obsessive, emotionally damaged egomaniac? Suicidal thrill-seeker? A Kerouac-like drifter addicted to the search for an ever-evasive truth? A high-functioning schizophrenic? The 21st century youth culture reincarnation of John Gault? Or just a kid going through a difficult time and looking for some distance to sort it all out?
Sean Penn's pop-philosophical examination of this young man's voyage across America, to Alaska, and to the depths of his young soul will give you an interpretation at least. While it is not clear exactly whose interpretation we are seeing, it is very clear that Penn respects his subject and gave this film about as much thought and power as he could inject it with. And the film did remind me of something very true about the self-righteous naiveté of youth.
I am not concerned at all with the accuracy of the film, and, while it is tempting to compare this film to Werner Herzog's excellent but less fictionalized "Grizzly Man", the subjects are really too widely disparate; Herzog and Penn's perspective on humanity is too different to produce a meaningful comparison. The targets of this comparison, too big and too easy. But I will make one comment about the two films - Penn's film is much more or a tribute to its protagonist than Herzog's.
I found Into the Wild to be a gripping, thoughtful film. The script was good, but sometimes a bit pretentious - occasionally crossing the line between character development and character worship. Penn's direction and cinematography are masterful. The acting - every member of the cast included - is absolutely excellent.
Recommended - but not for light cheerful entertainment.