The Sean Penn "Into The Wild" Rave
I just got back a little earlier tonight from seeing "Into The Wild" at the theater and man was it ever good!! I mean, what a fantastic piece of filmmaking, what an incredible performance and what an amazing film in every sense. I absolutely loved it!
Everyone knows that Sean Penn is one of the greatest actors alive, but I'm guessing that, outside of cinephile circles, few understand that he's also one of the great directors working today. He's only made 4 films since his directorial debut back in 1991, but every one of them has been really good, and a couple have been astonishingly great, and that includes "Into The Wild", which is probably his best film yet.
It's the true-life story of Christopher McCandless, a 23-year-old kid from an affluent family who, back in the early-'90s, rejected society, left everything behind and headed off on a two-year trip around the U.S. and, eventually, off into the wilderness of Alaska. And it's a story Sean tells both passionately and sympathetically. If you think life is all about accumulating stuff and "getting ahead" then you probably won't like this Chris character all that much, but if you love adventure and self-discovery and quests for meaning and understanding then this film will almost certainly fascinate you, as it did me. Then again, if you're simply into incredible filmmaking, beautiful scenery and incredible acting you'll probably love this, regardless of how materialistic you may or may not be.
By the way, "The Indian Runner", Sean's directorial debut back in '91, was, sadly, seen by very few people, but it is, in fact, one of my favorite films ever. It features stunning performances from both David Morse and Viggo Mortensen, a decade before "The Lord of The Rings" made Viggo a big star. It is simply a brilliant - and brilliantly-acted - film. They say actors-turned-directors really know how to get the most out of their fellow actors and "The Indian Runner" really makes a strong case for that idea, that's for sure. And Sean wrote the original screenplay too, basing it on "Highway Patrolman", a Bruce Springsteen song off of his classic album "Nebraska".
"Into The Wild" also features incredible performances all around. And, again, Sean wrote the screenplay himself, basing it, this time, on a book of the same name by Jon Krakauer (who also wrote the fascinating true-life story "Into Thin Air", about a doomed Everest expedition).
All this seemingly unlimited skill of Sean's really makes me want to ask one pointed question here and that's this: Just how much talent does one guy need anyway? Isn't it enough to be one of the greatest actors of all time? Does he really have to be such an amazing director and screenwriter as well? Is this all just about making the rest of us feel incredibly inadequate or what?
But it's not just Sean who is full of talent here. The lead actor, Emile Hirsch, who is in just about every single scene of this two-and-a-half-hour film, gives a remarkable, breathtaking performance. Then there are all the supporting actors, particularly Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, and, in a small role, Vince Vaughn. And the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam, is perfect too. If you haven't already, you've just got to see this film.
But, as always, I should put a disclaimer here: If you love stuff like "Transformers" then you'd best avoid this film at all costs. I mean, there's actual acting here and even moments where nothing explodes. Many moments. The whole film, in fact. And the only transformations here are subtle ones to do with character and relationships. But for all non-Transformer fans out there - that is, all those who love great filmmaking - make sure you see this film!! And, like any great film, but particularly one like this with so many magnificent shots of glorious outdoor scenery, make sure you see it up on the big screen to fully appreciate its greatness and beauty. What an incredible film!
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008