Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Into the Wild

I confess, I am usually one of those people who prefer the book to the movie. However, Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild is an exception to that ‘rule’. Following Krakauers book, Penn chooses to tell the story of Chris McCandless through his interactions with those who befriended him in the last two years of his life intercutting these episodes with the final weeks of his life when he finally reaches his goal of living out in the wilds of Alaska.

Penn’s direction gives a pace and balance to the story that the book seemed to lack. In addition, his use of a voice-over by Chris’s sister, Carine and the interspersing of close-ups and long-shots of the natural world give more of a sense of her brother’s rebellion against his parents and the reasons for his rejection of the trappings of modern life in favor of an idealized and romanticized view of a life in Nature.

Somehow, Penn gets his cast to become their parts so much that Into the Wild is one of those movies where I feel like I am watching the characters on the screen rather than the actors playing them. I even found myself appreciating the performance of Vince Vaughn.

Perhaps the movie makes McCandless’s life a little too glossily tragic. He was neither a modern-day Jack London nor just a spoiled little rich kid but something of both and something else too.

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