Starring: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden
Running time: 148 minutes
Directed By: Sean Penn
Written By: Sean Penn
Before I begin let me just state that this film is based on a true story so I will mention the outcome of the film. If you know the story you will know the outcome and if you don't maybe you should stop reading, although I'm sure the outcome is pretty obvious.
Chris McCandless (Hirsch) is a young man who has just graduated from college and has the opportunity to move on to Harvard Law School, something his parents are extremely happy about. His parents seem to be of the pushy kind and the sort that believe that a career and money is worth more than humanity itself. It is shown that Chris has been lead down this path when he has dinner with his parents and he tells them he has twenty four thousand dollars saved up. His parents then go on to offer him a car but Chris' reaction to this, in that he rejects it outright, shows that he is a boy who wants to do it all on his own, so much so that once his parents leave him that is exactly what he does. He donates all his money to charity, chops his credit cards and ID, and burns any leftover cash in his pocket. He then climbs into his car and drives west as far as he can, before being wiped out by a flash flood. At this he sets out on foot in an attempt to realise a sudden dream; fleeing to Alaska and living in the solitary wild.
The film begins with Chris already having achieved his goal; he stumbles across an old bus in the middle of the forest and uses it as his home, he hunts for deer as food and ensures that the bus is in a good liveable condition. We then flashback to the beginning from when he set off to each character he encounters on his journey. All of this is intertwined with the present moment of him in the forest. Along his journey he meets hippies, farmers, travellers and a lonely old man who each give him something valuable for when he is on his own, be it an item or information. All believe that his dream is crazy and their gifts come with warnings. At the end each gift and each warning have a huge part to play.
The film does jump in the timeline. We see him meet a character, they give him his need, and then we move forward to the present and see him taking on this advice or trying to avoid their warning. The flashbacks build towards a happy dream that he is close to completing, and the present scenes in the forest show his depletion towards death. This man learns a valuable lesson of life as it drifts away from him.
This is the sort of film that I find frustrating; one because it is something I would like to do, I couldn't think of nothing better than getting up and heading across the country and winging it. On the other hand I couldn't stand it when he clearly begins to struggle but is too stubborn to head out of the wilderness and find a way to his parents who would happily pay for him to get home. This probably frustrated me more as I couldn't understand why he was doing this too himself. I really enjoyed the idea of his journey but he seems to be on a suicide mission.
Chris is not a likeable character. I hate to say it as he technically was a real person, but he was selfish and willing to hurt anyone who got in his way. It is as if he gets him comeuppance at the end for following a stupid dream. The characters he meet all tell him this and all show good reason for him to stay with them but he won't. He has this idea that he will only be happy if he is alone. This is shown in a heart warming scene towards the end when he meets a lonely old man who sees him as a grandson, but Chris treads all over him and leaves him in tears. This was a huge problem for me in this film, I really disliked the character.
That is not to say that the acting by Hirsch wasn't good because he was great in the role. He showed his selfish, stubborn side at the same time as being likeable to the people on first impression. He also lost a lot of weight to portray the role which deserves a round of applause. There is also a great turn from Hal Holbrook who plays the old man, Ron. There one final scene really is touching.
There wasn't enough in this film for me to say it is brilliant. Too much of it frustrated me and I didn't like the lead character. Some of the scenes seemed pointless which meant the overly long running time could have been slashed. It looks great and there are some truly touching moments, however it isn't enough to make me think it is a great film. It is simply about an arrogant, selfish boy attempting to flee his parents but all he really is becoming is just like them, bringing him to a worse off conclusion.
3 / 5
Next film to review: FLOOD