Into the Wild Blu-ray Review: The Lost Boy

Sean Penn’s adaptation of Into the Wild was what initially inspired me to then read the book on which it’s based, back when I first saw it in 2007, and then seek out every other thing written by Jon Krakauer. It’s a beautifully told tale, albeit aggravating in some regard, about a boy who wants to break free from the societal chains holding him down. His dream is to be out in nature and to travel to Alaska – and not the city version of Alaska, but “Alaska Alaska,” as he tells one of the people he encounters. It was the right type of movie that captured what every young man at one point felt the urge to do, and it came out during my last few years of college, when I felt the weight crushing down on me and the pressure of what was expected.

Buy Into the Wild Blu-ray

Granted, I didn’t drain my accounts and burn every single identifiable piece of evidence that linked back to me, but I felt the urge to just live amongst nature and carve my own path. Upon revisiting the film, now that I am nearing 40, it hit me in a way that was unexpected and more sentimental than anticipated.

Into the Wild is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a recent college graduate who ditches his plans for law school to travel America on foot. On his way to Alaska, he encounters a diverse group of people – whether they be hippies (Brian Deeker and Catherine Keener), a farmer (Vince Vaughan), an up-and-coming musician (Kristen Stewart), or an elderly gentleman (Hal Holbrook), whom Christopher believes hasn’t experienced much in life after the death of his wife and his only child left him alone.

Christopher only has a handful of books with him, some that teach about what fruits to eat and also how to hunt for survival. Although he’s not an expert at either one, it’s an experiment for him in this thing called life, and he journals about everything. Usually, I am not a fan of voiceover narration in a movie, but it’s done effectively here – as we hear what Christopher writes down and also listen to the thoughts from his sister Carine (Jenna Malone), who wonders where he could be.

Christopher’s parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) are puzzled as to why their son would give up his promising future for a life out on the road, and most of the other people who knew Chris are confused as well. But once the background of the parents becomes unveiled more, and a history of abuse and neglect is brought to the forefront, it becomes more apparent as to why.

Of all the people Christopher meets along the way, the one that is the most impactful is the relationship he has with Holbrook’s character, Ron. Christopher challenges him to exceed his self-imposed limitations and to experience all that he’s missed in life. There’s a touching moment as they part ways that will forever be a tearjerker, no matter how many times the movie is viewed.

Into the Wild is a tragic tale of exploration and survival amongst the open land, breaking what authoritative restrictions are set in place and what societal norms want people to do. Some have viewed the real Christopher McCandless as a hero, but I don’t see him as such. Neither does Penn, who does a fantastic job of directing the film and capturing the final weeks of Christopher in such a tragic and beautiful way. It serves as a terrific insight into what someone could do when they want to break free, and it allows the viewer to see how Chris lived his life and how we can live ours – albeit in a more focused way.

The Blu-ray release for Into the Wild has some audio delays in the dialogue, but it’s not too terrible. What does work here is the video transfer, capturing the film’s gorgeous cinematography. And while the audio is a little off, the volume level is perfect in bringing Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack through your speakers. It’s a soundtrack I listened to constantly in college, and hearing it again brought back memories of how much it meant to me back then – and how much it and the film still mean to me now.

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David Wangberg

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