Into the Wild (2007)

(On DVD, June 2015) Well, I’m torn: What happens when you try to review a decently-made film that practically sanctifies someone who’s done something really, really stupid?  I’m not much for the whole “throw away your shackles, take a hike, enjoy life” narrative: I think we’re made stronger by being part of a civilization with rules, ties and obligations.  I’m not against traveling and having new experiences, but seeing the protagonist of Into the Wild give away his money, sever ties with his family, spout incoherent feel-good nonsense and head away from civilization in such a way as to sacrifice any chance of survival doesn’t make for a hero.  And yet, Into the Wild is captivating.  Sean Penn’s directorial debut is heartfelt, benefits enormously from location shooting, knows how to best use its actors (Emile Hirsch steals the show as the protagonist, but even Vince Vaughn has an uncharacteristic role) and manages to make even its most depressing moments mean something almost profound.  It does suffer from its length, though: clocking in at a far too long two hours and a half, Into the Wild often feels as if it’s waiting for something else and seems even longer given the dumb decisions made by the so-called hero of the story.  At the end, I’m more saddened by the film than uplifted by its attempt to glorify a series of bad decision by someone who may have had significant mental issues.  Have I liked Into the Wild, or not?

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