A Beautiful, Thought Proving Work, 12 January 2009
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Sean Penn will have been delighted by the controversy and debate this film has created. Yet its flaws are also its strengths.There are many unanswered questions- about central figure Chris McCandless’s reckless behaviour in Alaska and his handling of his relationship with his sister and family in particular.These criticisms miss the point.
Penn has created an episodic exploration of “untamed” America which need only be taken at face value. What remains are images of a great wilderness and vignettes of life’s highs, a brief chance meeting with a Danish couple in the Grand Canyon, and it’s lows, a beating by railway security.It encapsulates the loose Everyman desire to commune with the wild,discover the beauty and truth of nature, and eschew life’s materialistic trappings.No individual could possibly satisfactorily represent all those emotions, and McCandless, wonderfully played by Emile Hirsch, doesn’t.
Ultimately, it is a doomed quest. A tragedy that seeks, and attempts to illuminate, some truths about human existence. The extent to which it succeeds is down to the viewer, not the Director.Sometimes the pace is so slow that proceedings come to a graceful halt.Yet these halts serve merely as a coda, for the next meting with a stranger, and for the next sunset.
For those bored with formulaic blockbuster fare this is a welcome diversion, for others this will be a frustratingly slow and long exercise in achieving very little.You decide.