Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 133: Into the Wild (2007) - Rank 5/5

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There's no ifs, ands or buts about it, this is just a damn good movie. Watching this film was a wise idea for putting me in the mood for my expedition to the Grand Canyon. It was a bad idea, because it put the temptation to never come back into my mind. The film focuses on the true life of Christopher McCandless, an Emory student who dropped out of, well..."civilized life," to explore the wilderness (the main focus of his expedition soon became hiking to Alaska). His departure was sparked out of disgust of materialism and commercialism - ideas that were embraced by his selfish parents. The spirit of the film captures the carefree lifestyle of living off of the land to the point that it becomes quite alluring.

The cast is absolutely perfect, with Emile Hirsch turning in an absolutely stellar performance as McCandless. Not only does he progress through a spiritual transformation, but he also undergoes a grueling physical transformation as well (hell, he lost forty pounds for the latter portion of the film). His performance is one that was sadly overlooked by most major awards ceremonies. I'll contend that he was more worthy of being nominated for Best Actor than Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" or Johnny Depp in "Sweeny Todd."

Hal Holbrook did receive a nod, but it was just that. I think the Academy wanted to acknowledge the veteran actor for his body of work. However, I didn't see where it was worthy of a nomination. Now Brian H Dierker, on the other hand, was an actor that really caught my attention as Rainey, a hippie experiencing relationship issues with his wife (Catherine Keener). Every time he was on screen I wondered where I'd seen him before and I was surprised to learn that the answer was: nowhere. The guy was the coordinator for the river rafting scenes and Hirsch goaded director Sean Penn into roping him into the role. That's probably the best on the spot casting since R.Lee Ermey was pushed from the level of consultant to actor in "Full Metal Jacket." There's just so much in the film - often it's as astounding as its backdrops. Clearly Sean Penn had a love for the story that he was telling. He writing/directing projects are few and far between, but looking at "Crossing Guard," "The Pledge," and now "Into the Wild," it's clear that Penn is becoming quite versatile at a number of talents and while I was once lukewarm about the actor, I 'm almost surprised to hear myself saying that I look forward to his next endeavor.

Watch the Trailer

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