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Into the Wild(2007)
Into The Wild is inspired by the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a young man who abandons his life of comfort to pursue the freedom of life on the road, a quest that leads him to the Alaskan wilderness and the ultimate challenge of his life. Screenplay and directed by Sean Penn and featuring an all-star cast including William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener and Hal Halbrook, Into The Wild is "as stirring, entertaining and steadfastly thrilling as it is beautiful." (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal).
For more about Into the Wild and the Into the Wild Blu-ray release, see the Into the Wild Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on July 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn
Director: Sean Penn
» See full cast & crew
Into the Wild Blu-ray Review
Self discovery never looked this good...
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, July 12, 2009
If you look back on the advancements of modern society within the past 100 years, you'll realize just how far the human race has developed in a relatively short period of time. Technological inventions arrive with blinding speed, and what seems like a vast improvement today, will be overshadowed by the next big thing tomorrow. In light of all the luxuries we now enjoy, I've always found it somewhat peculiar that humans remain entirely human, caught in the trappings of our own need for trials and tribulations. The fear of hunger has been replaced by a fear of obesity, the fear of exposure to the elements has been replaced by the burden of a mortgage, and the fear of family security from the predators of the wild has been replaced by a fear of financial instability. I often wonder if mental illness was present since the dawn of man, or if it evolved into its current state as a human reaction to the lack of real danger in our developed society. Sure, dangerous situations will always exist, and fear is a real emotion that will never escape even the most courageous within a given society, but I'm sure we can all admit that the majority of technological advancements take us one step closer to becoming the softest species on Earth.
Into the Wild is based on the final two years in the life of Christopher McCandless (played in the film by Emile Hirsch), a young man who chose to abandon his promising future as a recent college graduate and set off on an adventure of self-discovery. During the two years he spent drifting, Christopher remained under the radar of society and purposefully avoided any contact with his parents, who are portrayed in the film as the catalyst behind his actions. Along the way, he befriends an assortment of endearing personalities from all walks of life, who touch his life as much as he touches theirs. If you are even vaguely familiar with the story of Christopher McCandless (as told in the wonderful book by Jon Krakauer), you already know the young wanderer's journey eventually led him into the depths of the Alaskan wilderness, which he considered the pinnacle of his aspirations.
Into the Wild is a brilliant and powerful film that will resonate with viewers for years to come. As screenwriter and director, Sean Penn spent years trying to convince the McCandless family to give him the opportunity to turn their son's story into a feature film and I'm still shocked they allowed him to eventually complete it. Billie and Walt McCandless (played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) are not painted in a positive light and I can't imagine how difficult it must be to watch yourself depicted in that manner while already dealing with the grief of losing your son. Having said that, it should be noted that the film contains a number of fictionalized elements that add to the overall dramatic effect of the production, and can neither be confirmed nor denied by historic record. No matter how much research was completed by Jon Krakauer and Sean Penn, we will never truly know what was going through the brain of McCandless when he chose to abandon his money and possessions. The film attempts to depict a conversation about his parents buying him a new car as the tipping point for his abandonment of material goods, but that seems far too trivial of an explanation (though I should mention there is more detail provided later regarding his childhood and the implications it likely had on his choices after college).
If there's one thing I love about Into the Wild, it's the realization of an instinct that lies somewhere in all of us. I cherish any opportunity to get out into nature and the film captures the beauty, peril and charm of the great outdoors in a way that every filmmaker dreams of. Even if you don't consider yourself an outdoorsy type of person, I still think you'll walk away with a nagging sensation of glee at the prospect of packing a bag, skipping work and just setting out to find whatever comes your way. Naturally, I'd be right back home the following night complaining of blistered feet and longing for the comfort of my home theater recliner (after all, I'm a man of fleeting ambition), but the strength of the film is still undeniable. We could debate the actions of Christopher McCandless until we're blue in the face and there will always be speculation regarding his mental state, but what we do know, is the man was willing to follow his convictions in a way we can all understand and relate to. Whether you respect his decisions or despise his disregard for an "easy" life, Into the Wild raises questions many of us are never forced to ask ourselves, leaving a legacy that will be appreciated throughout generations to come.
Considering the strong supporting cast in the film, I was impressed that the standout performance came from relative newcomer Emile Hirsch. Stepping into what could have been the most difficult role of his acting career, Hirsch embodies the bold innocence of McCandless, bringing the best and worst out of his character. Surrounded by the likes of William Hurt, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook, the entire production is elevated by the personalities that tie events together, and I was left with the impression I had just witnessed one of the greatest ensemble casts in history.
Lastly, no review would be complete without a discussion of the music by Eddie Vedder. Sean Penn enlisted Vedder after the film was nearing completion and asked him to provide several musical numbers that could be used in the film. During one of the supplements on the disc, Penn discusses his intention to let the music tell the story in several scenes and that is exactly what we get. Vedder nails every detail and emotion in the songs he recorded, creating a soundtrack that almost acts as narration throughout the extent of the film. As a long-time Pearl Jam fan, I'd already listened to the Into the Wild soundtrack prior to my initial viewing of the film and my appreciation for the album grew tenfold when I was able to hear it within the context of the film. If you haven't heard the soundtrack or watched the film, you're in for quite a treat.
Into the Wild Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the VC-1 codec (at an average bitrate of 33Mbps) Into the Wild looks impressive on Blu-ray. Detail isn't the sharpest I've seen, but the picture maintains a smooth, film-like texture that replicates every characteristic of the wilderness, wheat fields, or desert with a nice level of precision and clarity. Every now and again there's a shot that appears slightly less detailed than the rest of the film, but I'd wager that's a result of the source material and not a deficiency in the transfer. Given the subject matter of the film, it would have been a shame if the coloring were anything other than natural, but I'm pleased to report the color scheme is vivid but not overly saturated, allowing the environment of the Alaskan landscape or Grand Canyon to take center stage without coming across garish. Black levels and contrast are equally impressive throughout the daytime sequences, but I was disappointed in the appearance of black crush and a loss of shadow detail in the nighttime shots (look for the sequence where Christopher is talking to Rainy and Jan on the beach early in the film). Fortunately the nighttime shots are few and far between, but they still stand as the one flaw on an otherwise excellent transfer. Lastly, I never noticed the presence of edge halos, digital artifacting, banding, or other anomaly that could mar the presentation. This is truly the way Into the Wild was meant to be seen.
Into the Wild Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The primary audio track on the disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix in the native language of English. The strength of the audio experience won't be readily apparent until you take the time to listen for the subtle environmental effects that grace your surround speakers in a non-obtrusive way. The various settings throughout the film offer a wealth of distinct sounds, from the rushing water of Alaskan streams to the crackle of footsteps on the sun-bleached landscape of Arizona. In addition to the impressive use of environmental effects in the soundstage, the dialogue and music are well-balanced, offering a complete package that places you side-by-side with McCandless as he ventures out on his journey. Vedder's songs are incorporated with a proficiency that allows his music to take center stage without pulling the viewer out of the film experience, which is a testament to Sean Penn's direction and Eddie Vedder's songwriting skills. If you loved Into the Wild on DVD (with lossy audio), you'll be pleasantly surprised with the improvements in this TrueHD experience.
Into the Wild Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Into the Wild: The Characters, The Story (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 21:54 min): This featurette includes clips from the film and interviews with Sean Penn, Jon Krakauer and all of the primary actors from the main feature as they discuss the process of bringing two years in the life of Christopher McKandless to the screen. The entire segment is just as profound and thought-provoking as the film itself and I have the upmost respect for the lengths Sean Penn went to in order to gain the rights to a story about such an intriguing gentleman.
Into the Wild: The Experience (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 17:20 min): Switching gears a little from the first featurette, this segment focuses more on the technical, behind-the-scenes elements of making the film. Emile Hirsch discusses his weight loss (he dropped from 155lbs to 115lbs during the 8 month shoot), Sean Penn talks about his set locations, and the producers touch on the level of dedication shown by everyone involved in the production.
Lastly, we have a trailer for Into the Wild presented in high-definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
Into the Wild Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
When I watched Into the Wild for the first time, I felt deeply moved by the tragedy that befell Christopher McCandless and wondered if I would ever be compelled to watch the film again. After all, this isn't an uplifting story with a happy ending, or the type of film you'll decide to watch when your feeling low. Surprisingly, this is my third viewing of the 2007 release, and I can honestly say I appreciate the film to a greater extent two years after originally watching it. It's difficult to predict the lasting value a film will maintain, and replayability varies among each viewer, but Into the Wild has become a character study that sets a new bar for other filmmakers to follow and I would highly recommend this release to anyone with a Blu-ray player.
Into the Wild: Other Editions
Into the Wild Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - December 16th - December 16, 2008
Since the days of Laserdisc, the Criterion Collection has dedicated their efforts to collecting the greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world, and make them available to the general public at the highest quality possible. Today, they release ...
• Paramount Catalog Titles Get Specs - October 16, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment has revealed the technical specs and special features for the 11 upcoming catalog titles due for Blu-ray release from December through January. All titles will receive 1080p video encodes accompanied by a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. ...
• Paramount Announces Hot Rod and Into the Wild for Blu-ray - September 22, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Andy Samberg comedy 'Hot Rod' and 'Into the Wild' to Blu-ray on December 16th. Both films will be presented in 1080p high definition video accompanied by 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks, though 'Hot ...
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