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Into the Wild


Stars: Emile Hirsch, Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, Hal Holbrook, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Vince Vaughn, Jena Malone, Brian Dierker

Director: Sean Penn

Sickened by his parents' rows at home and the knowledge that they weren't as married as they pretended, and rejecting the values of society, Chris McCandless (Hirsch) graduates, gives his 24,000-dollar savings to Oxfam, leaves home, burns the rest of his money, re-names himself Alexander Supertramp and takes off across America, sweeping round from Arizona, California and South Dakota towards his final destination - Alaska.

His journey takes two years and the film, despite some good 'bits', sometimes feels that long. The DiCaprio-like Hirsch goes through hell and high water - including a dramatic weight loss in the final scenes - but his isn't a particularly sympathetic character and he also plays a little too much to the camera.

Along his epic trek, he comes out with such faux-wise remarks as 'Rather than love and pain and fairness, give me truth' and 'If we admit that human life can be destroyed by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed'. What do these maxims mean?

He meets friendly hippies (Keener, Dierker), a law-flouting redneck farmer (Vaughn), Swedish nudists and, in scenes that come closest to touching human emotions, an old man (Holbrook) who does engraving to boost his retirement income.

He rides rapids and learns how to kill animals - though not how to preserve the meat. Finally, however, and too late, he realises that 'happiness is only real when shared'. Some audiences will be gripped by all this, some will be longing to kick its self-centred hero, and others will be looking at their watches almost throughout. The gorgeous Alaska scenery, though, is a gift for any cinematographer, and one that Eric Gautier doesn't spurn.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Paramount. Technicolor.
148 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Nov 2007