Movie Review

Cory King

Beth Bensen-Barber

Eng 111 DL06

February 29, 2012

Into The Wild to Be Free From Society

           The movie, Into the Wild, tells the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man who set out on a two year journey to the Alaskan wilderness in 1990 to be free from society. The movie starts off with a strong and heart wrenching scene that grabs you right from the beginning. Chris’s mother, Billie (played by Marcia Gay Harden) awakens in the middle of the night by her son’s voice calling out in agony “mom, help, mom help me,” which puts her into a greater state of despair than she already was. She keeps saying to her husband, Walt (played by William Hurt) beside her, “I heard him, I heard him, Walt” that just keeps reassuring her that “he knows, he knows” in a state of despair himself.

Figure 1: Mr. and Ms. McCandless in agony about their son’s disappearance. Into the wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Perf. Emile Hirsch. Paramount, 2007. DVD

             As the movie progresses, you see Chris graduate from Emory University in Atlanta Georgia in 1990. After graduation, the McCandless family goes to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Chris and his sister, Carine (played by Jena Malone), are on their way to the restaurant, Chris verbally reads Carine a powerful poem (one he seems to peg to their parents’ life) that in the end she asks her brother, “who wrote that?” to her question he reply’s “either of us could have.” As they pull up in front of the restaurant, their parents are in sight of them as their father gets upset. Not only are they a bit late, but also Carine is driving in another state with only her permit, which is against the law.

As the true story of McCandless proceeds, it is divided into chapters. Chapters from Chris’ journal, in which he had one through four, four being marked “Final Chapter: Getting of Wisdom.” All of the chapters express throughout the movie, the times and places he passed through and things he went through. For example, in chapter one, he is leaving everything behind: family, life’s responsibilities, and most of all society while spreading his wings wide open, as if “absolute freedom,” as Emile Hirsch portraying Chris states, is starting to take shape. It is then the story starts to take you into McCandless’ two year adventure to Alaska, free of society and emancipation from ordinary life.

Midway through, a character enters the movie for a short time. Ron Franz (played by Hal Holbrook) the perfect actor to play the role of the real life Mr. Franz. This character, Mr. Franz, who picks up Chris walking along the roadside by a Salton Sea rest stop in California quickly bonds with him and takes Chris in for a little while. While staying with Mr. Franz, Ron teaches Chris the craft of leathering, resulting in a leather belt that marked McCandless’ travels. Throughout this short time that Hal Holbrook plays in the movie, it seems to be just the right amount of screen time for the character, yet leaves you wanting more of the old man, but satisfied at the same time.

Chris shows Ron where he has set up camp in the hills on the outskirts of Salton Sea City, California. As the scene goes on to show, the two go up one of the mountain tops close to Chris’s camp where you can see the Salton Sea from atop. Ron, who is hesitant at first, but puts that behind him after Chris calls him “a stubborn old man sittin’ on his butt,” makes his way up the steep, rocky hillside and shouts “old man, huh?” and hesitancy gets shot right out of the window. When the two are sitting atop the mountain looking at the beautiful sights God has made around them, Ron says a little speech that makes Chris see Mr. Franz has great insights on life.

Figure 2: Hal Holbrook and Emile Hirsch sit atop a rocky hillside. Into the wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Perf. Emile Hirsch. Paramount, 2007. DVD

          Throughout the movie it shows Chris at “Magic Bus” in Alaska, living out his “Alaskan adventure” as Emile Hirsch portraying Chris McCandless summarized it. The movie shows you the ups and downs Chris went through when he finally reached the Magic Bus, and also when he was on his way to Alaska.

The film portrays Chris’ life style when he reached the Magic Bus. He set up camp inside bus 142, which was an old Fairbanks transit bus from the late 1950s that was left in the Denali Wilderness National Park for lumberjacks from years past. Chris had two big bags of rice and a 22 caliber rifle to help hunt game with when he entered the wild to live off of for the time period he was going to spend out in the wilderness. As time passed, ammunition for his gun ran low and the bags of rice were a thing of the past. As the movie shows you the scenes of Emile Hirsch growing skinnier and weaker, this part of the movie really touches you and gives you insight on what the real Chris McCandless went through and how he miscalculated his food supplies. But what happens later in the film and how it ends, well that is something you will have to sit down one afternoon or evening and see for yourself.

Figure 3: Emile Hirsch sits in front of the Fairbanks city transit system bus (Magic Bus). Into the wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Perf. Emile Hirsch. Paramount, 2007. DVD

          The movie, Into The Wild, is heartfelt, and inspiring. It really shows you the adventure of ultimate freedom the real Chris McCandless went to find and conquered. I encourage you to sit down and watch this movie and be mesmerized by the extraordinary true story of a young man’s earnest adventure for ultimate freedom, and a world not ruled by society. You will not regret it.

Works Cited:

“Into the Wild (film).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.


“Into the Wild.” IMDb. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.


“Into the Wild Pictures, Photos, Posters and Screenshots.” Listal. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.


Into the wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Perf. Emile Hirsch. Paramount, 2007. DVD


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