Into the Wild 2007

Critics score:
82 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: Penn depicts this flawed figure with all the richness and complexity you'd find in the unforgiving Alaskan terrain, presenting McCandless in both his selflessness and selfishness without once judging him or turning him into a martyr. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: If Into the Wild falls short of giving McCandless an indelible cinematic life, the film gets under your skin anyway. It doesn't feel improvised, exactly, but it does feel inhabited. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: Beautifully structured and performed. Read more

Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader: A murky screenplay leaves most of the humans ciphers, save for Hal Holbrook in an exquisitely calibrated performance as the avuncular desert retiree whose advice McCandless should have heeded. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: Read more

Scott Tobias, AV Club: Tempting as it might be to dismiss McCandless as a hare-brained hippie, he's not so easily reduced, and Penn does well to honor his slippery nature, even as he's clearly awed by his grand adventure. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: Though it's easy to dismiss McCandless' hippified musings and near-suicidal choices as the misguided actions of a kid who read Walden a little too closely in college, Penn's film aims for something more, a deeper telling of a tale of yearning and escape. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: Sequences are gorgeously filmed by cinematographer Eric Gautier, and they're heady with the joy of discovery -- they make you want to hit the road into the magnificent landscape we forget is out there. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: It's [Penn's] warmest, most celebratory and most completely realized film and, though you might not guess it from the material, it is also arguably his most personal. Read more

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: Without diminishing the deep transcendentalist yearnings of its young hero, Into the Wild builds to a climax of profound human connectedness, profound human pain. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: Penn has a real feeling for the stray moments in life that suddenly rush up and overwhelm us with emotion. He also has an eye for beauty in the wilds, of which this film has many. And he's very good with actors. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: It is we who are made a little more complete for wrestling with, and watching, Penn's film. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: Into the Wild takes your heart and shakes it, offering inspiration, exasperation and blunt realization in a true story of one young man's dream and nightmare. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: Into the Wild will haunt anyone willing to take the trip. Read more

Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press: It's a beautiful, big, sorrowful film that manages to celebrate America while reexamining what it has stood for and what it has become. Read more

Amy Nicholson, I.E. Weekly: Penn's main idea about going native is making eye contact with a deer. Read more

Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly: Penn's film burns with native intelligence, never tipping into hagiography, and always doing what very few purveyors of McCandless' story have been able or willing to do. It engages with him on his own terms. Read more

Bruce Newman, San Jose Mercury News: In its expansive spirit of investigation and embrace of life as a creative act, Into the Wild comes as close as any picture ever made to capturing the America that Jack Kerouac discovered half a century ago. Read more

Jan Stuart, Newsday: Into the Wild is a bittersweet odyssey of opportunities lost and paradise found. Read more

David Ansen, Newsweek: Hirsch, who carries the film on his increasingly emaciated shoulders, performs heroically, but there's an edge missing. Read more

David Denby, New Yorker: Sean Penn's Into the Wild is certainly visual -- it's entirely too visual, to the point of being cheaply lyrical. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: Into the Wild is all over the place and ultimately, I think, wrongheaded in its attack. But [Director Sean] Penn gives it the good old college try -- or perhaps I should say, the good old society-dropout try. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: It's a smart script that has a nice respect for books, ideas and the written word. Read more

Bob Mondello, As [Hirsch] struggles with the elements, his increasing frailty and the cinematography's increasing grandeur mesh in a way that's at once iconic and wrenching. Read more

Jack Mathews, New York Daily News: Overly romanticized. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: This saga was the subject of Into the Wild, a short but fascinating book by Jon Krakauer that, 11 years later, has resulted in a gorgeously photographed and less intermittently fascinating 2 1/2-hour film by Sean Penn. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: It's a gorgeous, self-assured, thrilling and entertainingly intimate epic, an actor's picture in front of and behind the camera. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: As actor and director, Penn long has been drawn to the existential and elemental. Life and death. Remorse and revenge. All these themes converge -- symphonically -- in Into the Wild, his most fully realized work as a director. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: By the end of the movie, I don't know that I liked Chris, but I understood him and sympathized with him, and sometimes that's more important. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: Sean Penn's spellbinding film adaptation of this book stays close to the source. Read more

Stephanie Zacharek, If nature -- if life -- is as wild and precious as the movie makes it out to be, Hirsch needs to give us something, someone, to watch on-screen. We need to feel a presence before we can take the measure of an absence. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: This is one of those movies I can imagine deciding is a masterpiece in a month's time. And by any measure, "Into the Wild" is a big leap forward for Penn as a director and deserves to be one of the most talked about films of the season. Read more

Dana Stevens, Slate: Penn performs one bit of sleight-of-hand on the book that's borderline unforgivable. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: The film, I am convinced, is unforgettable. Read more

Rick Groen, Globe and Mail: A road movie with a lofty message that too frequently gets lost in its own thematic barrens. Whereas Krakauer's disturbing book sticks with you, Penn's movie, wrapped in the balloon of its fanciful rhetoric, just floats off. Read more

Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: Super '70s in both style and sensibility, Into the Wild does for vagabond New Age souls what Deliverance did for misguided suburban macho. Read more

Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine: I happen to think Sean Penn is one of our more admirable knotheads -- a fearless actor, a bold controversialist and, as he proved with The Pledge, a very strong director, capable of far subtler moral complexity than Into the Wild affords. Read more

Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out: Read more

Mark Holcomb, Time Out: Penn's entitled to his reading of McCandless's story, of course, but envisioning it as a Stations of the Cross with a backpack is bizarre and disrespectful. Read more

David Jenkins, Time Out: The photography is of the sort you'd find in any half decent nature documentary, with cloying emphasis placed firmly (and sometimes clumsily) on the idea that our neglectful, selfish and not to mention rampantly capitalist ways are destroying the planet. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: Captivating and multifaceted. Written and directed by Sean Penn, the film is a haunting and moving experience, highlighted by evocative original music by Eddie Vedder. Read more

Dennis Harvey, Variety: Sean Penn delivers a compelling, ambitious work that will satisfy most admirers of the book. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: Sean Penn sings a powerful and poetic hymn to America with "Into the Wild," his sweeping, sensitive and deeply affecting adaptation of Jon Krakauer's best-selling book. Read more