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Into the Wild (2007) Movie Review & Summary

By adapting Jon Krakauer's book, Sean Penn presents his movie as an epic road film featuring an idealist young man “Christopher McCandless” who meets endless characters (the film is full of familiar faces) until he is left alone in the middle of nature.

Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild (2007)

Take a journey into the beauty, into the danger, into the wild.

  • Genres: Adventure, biography & drama
  • Stars: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn & Catherine Keener
  • Director: Sean Penn


“Into the Wild” may be naive, almost childish in its approach, but in a way, Penn seeks precisely that naivety. His sympathy for the character and his decision is evident, and from both of them, he builds an intelligent and, above all, very well visualized look towards today's society. It is debatable, especially with an ending that is not up to the rest of the footage’s standard. But the truth is that “Into the Wild” manages to question a big part of today’s society and is worth giving a shot.


  • Moments of great emotion
  • Sean Penn and Eric Gautier’s visual work
  • Great soundtrack by Eddie Vedder


  • Pacing problems
Characters & Acting
Music & cinematography

The details


Dreams are overrated. It is straightforward with this movie, based on the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a boy from Virginia. The protagonist is raised in a wealthy family and has an unusual intelligence, which allows him to graduate in History and Anthropology from Emory University with extraordinary marks; Harvard opening its doors. However, he has another dream and a lot of tenacity, a combination that sometimes brings calamities.

Puritan in spirit, Chris despises his parents as materialistic and hypocritical – “they just give things away” – and has no intention of compromising convention. To prove it, he donates his considerable savings and disappears on the roads without even saying goodbye. Although weighed down by books, he travels light; embarking on this wonderful journey across the country.


The film sees McCandless renounce all his possessions as he hitch hikes across America; encountering several people on the way. He passes through lots of beautiful places scattered throughout the western half of the country: Arizona, California, Oregon, South Dakota … The landscapes are colossal; the viewer comes to envy McCandless’s adventure. At least part of it. Because it’s very to the limit, it strains your physical and mental capacity to extreme points. For example, he paddles down the Colorado River’s currents with a kayak without permits, without previous canoeing experience, information about the route, and protective material. Against all odds, Christopher survives after an adrenaline rush and with his self-esteem through the roof. The gods flatter those they want to lose.

The same river leads him to the Topock Gorge, in the Mohave Mountains, and to the country’s southern edge, where he enters Mexico’s Baja California to swim with whales. In American California, he explores the Anza Borrego desert, where an endearing older man welcomes him into his home. After few weeks of living together, they build a strong bond. People do like Christopher. They see their inner desires to live freer in him.

The movie introduces successive supporting characters, all charming, who offer him the opportunity to start a new life in a hospitable environment, but McCandless leaves them behind. He cannot establish lasting relationships; he does not know or want to. A friend warns him: “You are very young. You cannot continually grow your inner fire.” But his obsession dominates him: he wants to survive alone in the middle of nature.


Sean Penn, the author of the script and director of the film, splits the narrative into two speeches that continually overlap: Chris’s time in Alaska, his destiny, and the path that leads him there. The Christopher Johnson McCandless story is real. Writer Jon Krakauer disclosed it in 1996 in his book On the Road, making him a highly admired character in the United States for his tenacity and courage.

In 2007 the Sean Penn covered the story with this movie adaptation; with a stellar script which was simplistic yet beautiful storytelling. The raw emotions of the characters were expressed through exemplary dialogue like, “Some people feel like they don’t deserve love” which raised the story quality and led to several nominations for the coveted best screenplay category.

Characters and acting

Emile Hirsch deserves all the praise possible, proving that he cannot only appear in typical comedies. His transformation, especially physical, comes to impress, especially in the film’s last moments. His joy and enthusiasm for life is contagious, and the tour he makes with far more experienced actors deserves applause. William Hurt also deserves more praise, as he can compose and shape his character with a single glance, and he has perfect harmony with Marcia Gay Harden. Both are in the roles of parents of Chris.

Jena Malone plays McCandless’s sister, narrating the story of Christopher. Catherine Keener appears twice, proving to be one of the most charismatic actresses on the current Hollywood scene. Vince Vaughn is still playing himself, and Kristen Stewart is still a pitiful actress, no matter how much her outfit changes. Lastly, veteran Hal Holbrook, putting the veteran note with one of those characters so loved by all, for whom he has been nominated for an Oscar.

Music and cinematography

Being a fan of Pearl Jam, and in addition to Eddie Vedder, we find the soundtrack spectacular, with Eddie Vedder’s deep voice giving the film a good weight. It has a couple of songs that remain with you, like “Society,” “Hard Sun,” and “Guaranteed.” But the Hollywood Academy did not think the same and has gone traditional. A pity because the soundtrack deserves lots of credit. Especially the harmony between cinematography and music is a tremendous joy to experience. With beautiful nature footage and Christopher’s joy of freedom and stubborn idealism, “Into the Wild” achieves to awaken different feelings in viewers’ souls. Emotions such as joy, euphoria,  sadness, and melancholy can be experienced simultaneously in the movie.

Final verdict

Into the Wild has outstanding photography, music that cannot be forgotten, and captivating philosophy for minds caught in the stress of civilization. We cannot deny that we have positioned ourselves in favor of this movie, which shows that Sean Penn is a total filmmaker that must be considered.  Simply because he has quality material in which he believes.

Deep down, this is necessary and grateful cinema. We want to end the review with some lyrics of Eddie Vedder’s fantastic soundtrack, which is amazingly accurate for Christopher McCandless’s philosophy.

“Everyone I come across in cages they bought

They think of me and my wandering.

But I’m never what they thought.

Got my indignation, but I’m pure in all my thoughts

I’m alive…”

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