New York Times - 09/21/2007
"[T]hough the film's structure may be tragic, its spirit is anything but. It is infused with an expansive, almost giddy sense of possibility, and it communicates a pure, unaffected delight in open spaces, fresh air and bright sunshine."
USA Today - 09/21/2007 3.5 stars out of 4 -- "[T]he film is a haunting and moving experience, highlighted by evocative original music by Eddie Vedder."
Entertainment Weekly - 09/28/2007
"[W]ritten and directed with magnificent precision and imaginative grace....It's an intensely physical movie..." -- Grade: A-
Rolling Stone - 10/04/2007 3.5 stars out of 4 -- "Penn, in tandem with the superb cinematographer Eric Gautier, captures the majesty and terror of the wilderness in ways that makes you catch your breath."
Total Film - 11/01/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A]n eco-road movie that refreshes and invigorates. Exquisitely shot, robustly acted and deeply felt, it's a potent ode to wanderlust and human pluck."
Empire - 10/19/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "Penn has evidently soaked up his Terrence Malick. But with its thoughtful pace and loose structure, his depiction of the McCandless odyssey also recalls Lynch's THE STRAIGHT STORY."
Uncut - 12/01/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "As the wide-eyed hero, Hirsch is excellent....This is Penn's big auteur statement on our times....It has more soul in its sprawl than any other film this year."
Sight and Sound - 12/01/2007
"With its swooping hunger for landscape and new experience, it plunges headlong into the giddy, passionate convictions of its hero..."
Rolling Stone - 12/27/2007 Ranked #3 in Rolling Stone's "10 Best Movies Of 2007" -- "This is personal filmmaking at its soaring best. Penn honors his subject and the courage it takes to push boundaries."
Ultimate DVD - 04/01/2008 5 stars out of 5 -- "Director and book adapter Sean Penn has the greatest eye for composition of any successful actor turned film-maker since Clint Eastwood..."
Wall Street Journal - 06/01/2012
"Sean Penn's fascinating screen version of the Jon Krakauer book of the same name....[Stewart] gives an agreeably vital performance that could still be predictive of things to come in her career."
Jon Krakauer's bestselling nonfiction book about the life of Chris McCandless is finally brought to the big screen in INTO THE WILD. Directed by Sean Penn, the film opens in 1992, when Chris (Emile Hirsh) is a promising college graduate. Shortly after graduation, Chris gives his life savings to charity, burns all of his identification, and begins hitchhiking across America, his ultimate goal being Alaska. Citing passages from his heroes, Thoreau and Jack London, he is determined to escape society and get back to nature. He blows from town to town like a tumbleweed, hopping trains, camping with aging hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), working briefly with a farmer (Vince Vaughan), and befriending a widowed leather worker (Hal Holbrook). He revels in his newfound freedom, but meanwhile, his parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) have no idea where he is, and are sick with worry. While their relationship with Chris was already troubled, they are nonetheless devastated by his disappearance. Chris's sister, Carine (Jane Malone), narrates much of the film, offering her reflections on the effect Chris's absence has on his family. Chris finally makes it to Alaska, where he hikes out to a remote campsite and discovers an abandoned bus. He manages to survive there for a few months living off the land, but he eventually runs out of supplies and becomes trapped, leading to his tragic end.
INTO THE WILD bounces around chronologically, jumping back and forth from the start of Chris's journey to his final few weeks living aboard the bus. This works to great effect as the storylines begin to merge and the tension and dread mount, and we see the fate that will eventually befall Chris. Penn obviously had great admiration for his subject, and while the film appears to differ from the book in places, it nevertheless paints a heartbreaking portrait of this young man's short but fascinating life.