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Paramount Home Video presents
Into the Wild (CE) (2007)

"Some people feel like they don't deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past."
- Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: April 14, 2008

Stars: Emile Hirsch
Other Stars: Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Dierker, Signe Egholm Olsen, Thure Lindhardt, Cheryl Francis Harrington
Director: Sean Penn

MPAA Rating: R for language and some nudity
Run Time: 02h:22m:57s
Release Date: March 04, 2008
UPC: 097361316949
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAB+ C-

DVD Review

Based on Jon Krakauer's best selling true story of the same name, the film adaptation comes written and directed by Sean Penn, and tells the life of Chris McCandless—who either led the romantic life of free-spirited wanderer who chose to forsake possessions in favor of nature, or was a horribly misguided twenty-something who disowned his family and bit off far more than he could chew.

Coming from the outspoken Penn—whose personal/political life often overshadows his natural talents as an actor/filmmaker—I was expecting more of a McCandless-as-modern-day-Thoreau message to come through, but the screenplay does its best to not overly deify its lead character, though clearly the scales are tilted a bit more toward the romantic side.

Yet that's part of the real beauty of Penn's take on McCandless and Into The Wild. Because without the sharp analysis of the young traveler—and what others thought of him—that Krakauer brought out in the book, the film is left to mostly let us revel in the magnificent (and ultimately treacherous) outdoors as McCandless moved through it, periodically touching lives like some sort of spiritual Johnny Appleseed.

Penn's lead is played by Emile Hirsch, whose striking resemblance to the real-life McCandless is one thing, but who also manages to bound through the vastness of the natural scenery with the same sort of unencumbered spirit that I felt when reading Krakauer's book. You don't have to agree with the way McCandless lived his life to appreciate the innocent idealism that Hirsch brings to the role, as a person who seemed to be very different things to different people.

And of those people he encounters (including Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, and Kristen Stewart), none is more heartbreaking than the character played by Hal Holbrook. He doesn't appear until very late in the film, but Holbrook makes the most of his limited screen time with a performance indicates the Oscar for best supporting actor maybe went to the wrong person. Holbrook is not just a simple scene-stealer, but delivers what is probably one of the most pivotal moments in the entire story with proper, wet-eyed dignity, and if you are not reduced to tears then you are regrettably hopeless.

William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden are stuck with the thankless roles as the parents, left to dangle as the emotionally oppressive forces that eventually pushed away their son. Hurt makes the father robotically distant, while Harden shows a mother possibly trying too hard, and when the darker fragments of their own past and Chris McCandless' childhood get mention, they are neatly painted as the bad guys. What's most frustrating—when looking at the way McCandless lived his life—is how he seemed to simply abandon his younger sister, played by Jena Malone. And no matter how idealistic his lead, it does prove difficult for Penn to gloss over the depth of this strong familial bond without making Chris McCandless appear maddeningly selfish.

Looming as large as any character in the entire film is the voice of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who provides original songs that do more than just serve as background for the occasional montage moments. The lyrics, while helping spread some of the whole romantic-adventurer angle, often cut with a kind of poetic honesty about what is seemingly important and what isn't. Prior to this I was never much of a Vedder fan, but I was genuinely moved by the way his mournful whine became a forceful and haunting narrative tool. Wow.

There may be differing impressions of the implied romanticism of Chris McCandless and his journey, but Sean Penn's sprawling outdoor saga is rich with discovery and beauty.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: An outstanding 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Paramount, one that captures the great wide open with a fine degree of sharpness and sequences of exceptional detail. Colors are bright, fleshtones are warm, with rock solid black levels. No evidence of edge enhancement or smearing, and aside from a couple of moments of measurable grain, this is one beauty of a transfer.

Gorgeous.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: I was somewhat underwhelmed by this largely front-centric mix. Not that there is anything inherently flawed about it, as dialogue is always clear and Eddie Vedder's frequent tunes resonate with great clarity, but the lack of any sweeping rear channel cues undercuts the drama of the visuals. Not as aggressive as it could be, but a fairly rich presentation, regardless.

French and Spanish 5.1 dubs are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring There Will Be Blood, The Kite Runner, Beowulf, Margot At The Wedding, Things We Lost In The Fire, The Heartbreak Kid
2 Documentaries
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Not a whole lot here in terms of extras, making this two-disc set something of a bummer. Disc 1 carries the feature, along with a few trailers. The minimal extras appear on Disc 2, beginning with Into The Wild: The Story, The Characters (21m:53s) and ending with Into The Wild: The Experience (17m:19s). Both are nonanamorphic letterboxed, and do a tolerable job covering the development of the project with input from Penn and the cast. The film's original trailer is here too, presented in anamorphic widescreen.

The feature is cut into a skimpy 17 chapters, and includes optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

This two-disc set isn't necessarily a must own, considering there just isn't that much in the way of supplemental material. The film—also available as a single disc release—is a knockout, a gorgeous travelogue with a tragic coda that we all know is coming.

One of my absolute favorites of this year, and highly recommended.

 


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