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Sean Penn
Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt
Writing Credits:
Sean Penn

After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$2,138,403 on 658 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 148 min.
Price: $12.98
Release Date: 12/6/2008

• “The Story, The Characters” Featurette
• “The Experience” Featurette
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Into The Wild [Blu-Ray] (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 28, 2019)

Make no bones about it: no one will ever mistake me for some sort of outdoorsman, as my idea of “roughing it” means staying at a Motel 6. Perhaps someday I’ll understand why people happily spend days sleeping in dirt and urinating on trees, but probably not.

I can say for certain that I will never comprehend why someone would engage on the kind of life-threatening journey depicted in 2007’s Into the Wild. Based on a true story, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) graduates from college in 1990.

Rather than go to Harvard Law as his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) expect, he sends his savings to Oxfam, destroys his credit cards and Social Security card and embarks on a lonely journey. He even rejects his own name and adopts the nom de plume “Alexander Supertramp” as he cuts ties with civilization to set off on solo trek north to Alaska.

Why does Chris do this? Primarily because he wants to completely reject society and be one with nature.

As Chris follows his quest, his parents freak out and attempt to find him. The movie depicts Chris’ path as well as the folks he meets along the way and related events.

Perhaps this will betray my disdain for self-righteous poetry-spouting “rebels”, but I gotta admit I strongly disliked Chris right off the bat. Not only does his quest seem dopey to me, but he comes across as such a brat with his unbending concept of society’s ills that he appears unsympathetic and downright annoying.

Smug, condescending kids like Chris are a dime a dozen, though most don’t take their nascent beliefs to such extremes. He remains something of a hypocrite in my view, though, since the movie shows that he accepts and embraces societal conventions when they suit his needs.

I will admit that my take on him changes somewhat as the film progresses – though not entirely. On one hand, Wild manages to show the positive effect Chris’ free-spirited, irrepressible nature has on those with whom he comes into contact, but on the other, it demonstrates the harm his selfishness does. Indeed, the film’s first shot demonstrates the continued pain Chris’ departure causes his mother.

This continues in other ways. While we see how Chris opens up the lives of others and inspires them, his refusal to stick with any of them causes anguish.

This comes out most clearly in the scenes with Hal Holbrook as Ron, a lonely old man. Chris gets Ron to break out of his isolated shell, but then when he departs, it looks like the resultant heartbreak might make things worse for Ron than before Chris’ arrival.

Don’t expect Wild to heavily embrace that side of things, though, as it doesn’t present a balanced picture. It focuses much more on the usual tale about a determined dreamer who did things his own way.

I must acknowledge that some of these scenes work, as they helped diminish some of my dislike for Chris. I still thought he was selfish, but at least the film allowed me to see his side of things a little better.

And yet, Wild feels to me like something of a cinematic Rorschach, as I believe it’s open enough to interpretation for each viewer to view Chris in a different way. It would be easy to see Chris as the inspirational adventurer who went out on his own terms.

It’d also be easy to think of Chris as a selfish brat who died alone and miserable due to his own stupidity and overconfidence. Neither interpretation – and any others you can conjure – exists as an absolute. Probably more people will embrace the former than the latter, but they’re both completely valid takes on the character.

Hirsch’s performance helps allow such disparate interpretations and brings a potentially one-dimensional role to life. It would’ve been easy for Hirsch to make Chris nothing more than a beatific inspirational character, but he doesn’t stop there.

This means Hirsch shows Chris’ weaker side as well and allows us a broader view of his personality. Hirsch appears in almost every frame of the film, so it was his flick to win or lose, and he shoulders the load capably.

Hirsch gets a lot of assistance from a stellar supporting cast as well. Catherine Keener stands out as an aging hippie who acts as a maternal figure for Chris, and Holbrook earned an Oscar nomination as Ron.

It was probably unfair for the Academy to single out Holbrook among such a strong group of performances, though I think I can spotlight the moment that got him his nod: when he says goodbye to Chris. Holbrook delivers a powerful piece of work in limited time onscreen.

All of these factors help make Into the Wild a memorable experience. I find aspects of the film that I don’t much like, but they come more from my attitude toward the story itself than anything connected to the filmmaking. Sean Penn turns this fairly typical “beautiful dreamer” tale into something vivid and impactful.

Casting quirk: Jena Malone plays Chris’ sister here, while Kristen Stewart appears as a friend of his. Malone was cast as a young Jodie Foster in Contact, while Stewart showed up as Foster’s daughter in Panic Room.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Into the Wild appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film boasted a consistently strong transfer.

Overall sharpness appeared positive. Only a few minor instances of softness crept into wider shots, so the majority of the film looked precise and well-defined.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Outside of some stylistic grain, the movie stayed clean, so no source flaws interfered with the picture.

Expect a stylized palette here, as Wild opted for a lot of teal and amber. Within those constraints, the hues seemed appropriately rendered.

Blacks were dark and dense, and shadows looked clear and appropriately visible. I felt pleased with this appealing image.

As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Into the Wild, it also proved to be highly satisfying. With all its outdoor settings, the soundfield enjoyed quite a few chances to create a vivid landscape.

These gave us a clear feeling for the various environments and melded together smoothly. The mix used the surrounds in an unobtrusive manner but in a way that accentuated the atmospheric elements. I thought the track worked well for the story.

Audio quality was consistently good. Music appeared warm and vibrant, as the score and songs seemed well-reproduced. Speech came across as natural and distinctive, while effects were clean and accurate.

Both music and effects showed nice bass response, as the mix featured warm, tight lows. I liked the soundtrack and found it to be surprisingly effective.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Audio showed a bit more punch and clarity, while visuals were tighter, smoother and more vivid. This became a good upgrade over the DVD.

In terms of extras, we find the film’s trailer and two featurettes. Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters runs 21 minutes, 54 seconds as it brings notes from writer/director Sean Penn, author Jon Krakauer, singer/musician Eddie Vedder, and actors Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, and Kristen Stewart.

We find out what attracted Penn to the project and how he brought the novel to the big screen. We also learn why Krakauer wrote his book as well as research, casting, performances and aspects of the characters, Penn’s style as a director, and some experiences during the shoot.

Though “Story” doesn’t run long enough to offer great depth, it provides a nice snapshot of a few different issues. We get a decent overview of the actors and the tale across this short show. I’d like more detail, honestly, but what we find informs.

Into the Wild: The Experience goes for 17 minutes, 20 seconds and features Penn, Hirsch, Holbrook, Vedder, Krakauer, producer Bill Pohlad, production designer Derek Hill, art director Domenic Silvestri, costume designer Mary Claire Hannan, production sound mixer Edward Tise, editor Jay Cassidy, producer Art Linson, and actor Catherine Keener.

This piece looks at locations and related complications along with Penn’s work during the shoot, physical challenges for Hirsch, visual design, cinematography, and a few other production specifics. “Experience” acts as a good complement to “Story”. It throws out a mix of useful thoughts about the different technical aspects of the flick and entertains as it does so.

Due to my feelings about its lead character, I maintain some ambivalence toward aspects of Into the Wild, particularly in the way it moderately advances the idiotic notion that someone who craps in the woods is more alive than the rest of us.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like here, especially since Sean Penn manages to bring a moral ambiguity to the tale that leaves it much more open for interpretation than I’d anticipated.

The Blu-ray comes with very good picture and audio, but it skimps on extras. That’s a disappointment, as I’m sure there’s much more to tell about this flick and its story, and I particularly would’ve appreciated a documentary look at the lead character. Still, the Blu-ray presents the movie itself well, and it’s enough of a quality flick to earn my recommendation.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of INTO THE WILD

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