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Into the Wild

M.R. Dinkins
April 15, 2008
HDTV Solutions

It's a road trip and vision quest based on the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). As an honor student, McCandless seems motivated by classic literary trekkers, from Ulysses to Jack Kerouac - and even Che Guevara. The rootstock of his romanticized self-reliance and self-discovery surely stems from Henry David Thoreau and Jack London.

(Editor's note: We reviewed the Two Disc Collector's Edition DVD in April. The spectacular cinematography begs to be admired in HD and now the Blu-ray version will be available December 16.)

For those folks with enormous respect for Director Sean Penn, the man and the talent, there seems to be a broad parallel in his life and that of McCandless. Their personal story is about letting go, shunning rules and roles, and shaking off shackles - all in their brazen pursuit for answers and questions.

What inspired Hirsch to perform all his own stunts, (read "flouting insurance restrictions"), including scaling mountains, wild water kayaking and emaciating his body by 40 pounds, was the adventuresome script penned by Penn and Jon Krakauer, (who wrote the bestseller).

Into the Wild

Aside from Hirsch's award-worthy performance, the movie is satiated with exceptionally meaty cameos: Hal Holbrook (Academy nominated for his grandpaternal performance), Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone, Kristen Stewart and McCandless' semi-schizoid parents, John Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden, each one with their own considerable careers.

(For those of you who are just discovering Kristen Stewart in Twilight, her sultry performance as the forlorn teen in Into the Wild is what caught the attention of Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke.)

Penn and cinematographer Eric Gautier's intoxicating vistas could make anyone pine for a wilderness walkabout. The slo-mo shots - from the air-sketch of aerial water, to the lilting grace of swaggering horses - paint the film with poetry. Penn's style is not about invention, but about reinventing, revisiting and integrating old ways with new ideas.

Into the Wild

Fans of Eddie Vedder will relish the surround-sound songs filling meadows and mountains - for which he won a Grammy. And Editor Jay Cassidy was an Academy Award nominee.

Special Features

"The Story, The Characters and The Experience" are what you would want for the Extras from the McCandless story. Author Krakauer reminisces about the three years he spent tracing the trip and tracking testimonials from the players. You meet McCandless' parents and many of the real-life characters that he encountered on his twenty month solitary safari.

There are the requisite shots of shoots, cast chats and crew's comments - always interesting to the ravenous cineaste.

Into the Wild

Penn's monody is informative and satisfying, but you wish he would lighten up. Surely he could tell one funny story from his eight month cine expedition from Mexico to Alaska. Nope. None. Nada.

Into the Wild

Studio: Paramount

Director: Sean Penn

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, William Hurt, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, Brian Dierker

Length: 140 minutes

Rated: R

Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p (HD DVD)
Aspect ratio: 2:35:1

  Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
  Dolby Digital Stereo
  Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
  Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

English SDH, French, Spanish

Purchase Into The Wild [HD DVD]
Purchase Into the Wild (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)

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