Sunday, 16 December 2007

Into the Wild

How about that Sean Penn, eh?

His latest directorial effort Into the Wild is out, and it's really quite good. Not as good as his previous effort The Pledge, which was nothing short of spectacular, but this one doesn't have Jack Nicholson, so what are you going to do?

Sean Penn's a better director than he is an actor. Which is not to say that he's a bad actor. He does emotionally unstable better than just about anyone. But he's kind of a one-note actor. It's a good note. But it's only one note.

Into the Wild is a long, dreamy love letter to the American countryside in general and the Alaskan wilderness in particular. The film is based on a true story and follows the adventures of Christopher McCandless who, after graduating from college, gives his life savings to charity and heads off to live in the wild.

What follows are lots of sweeping shots of beautiful landscape, scenes with eccentric and colourful characters met on the road, and sweeping landscape shots featuring colourful and eccentric characters. You get the idea.

It's kind of like Easy Rider on dope instead of acid.

It's ponderous, a little slow, more than a little depressing, and tends to deify its characters more than is really necessary. I'm sure Christopher McCandless is an ace guy, but I'm also sure a lot of the set pieces in the film have been written to make him seem just that little bit more angelic than the rest of us.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great film. Emile Hirsch is very strong in the lead role (as he needs to be . . . he's on screen 95% of the time) and he is ably supported by the likes of Catherine Keener, William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden.

But like all Sean Penn movies, this is an Important Film. It tells an Important Story that really Means Something. And how much you enjoy it depends on how much you're willing to buy into the vision. This one had me about 80% of the time, so I'll give it 4 out of 5.