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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Into the Wild”

(Paramount Home Entertainment. 2007. 148 minutes. 2 Discs. Color. Widescreen. Rated R. Directed by Sean Penn.) Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook. Music by Michael Brook, Kaki King and Eddie Vedder.

Based on a true story, Into the Wild follows the story of Christopher McCandless (Hirsch), a promising college graduate who forsakes his life of comfort to hitchhike across America, with the ultimate goal being Alaska. As he travels, he meets a slew of characters, including a pair of aging hippies (Keener and talented newcomer Brian Dierker), a wise-cracking grain farmer (Vaughn, boisterous and nutty) and a leather-engraving widower (Holbrook). Meanwhile, Chris’s parents (Harden and Hurt) slowly grow more despondent over the apparent loss of their son. This is a beautiful movie. From the snow-covering mountains in Alaska to the wheat fields of South Dakota and the rapids of the Colorado River, the photography is breathtaking. Penn’s script is expertly constructed, intercutting scenes from McCandless’s trip across the country and his stay in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness, which provides a nice dramatic arc for a story that could have easily devolved into a slog through the woods. Hirsch pulls off an impressive portrayal of a young man who, in search of his great truth, is equal parts angry son and road philosopher. Hurt and Harden do well at showing the descent of his parents, from cold and distant to withered and lost. Holbrook’s performance is both profound and heartbreaking, well-deserving of his Oscar nomination for supporting actor. The soundtrack, while compelling in its own regard, could have been toned down in a few places to give deference to the visuals, but that’s a very minor quibble. Special features are short and sweet, with two featurettes (one about adapting the book, and the other about the filming of the movie). A fulfilling journey that’s worth the trip.