Emile Hirsch gives a brilliant performance as Christopher McCandless, in the true story of a troubled young man who gives away his life savings after graduation and hits the road to escape society, his parents and find 'the truth' in the world.
The film alternates between McCandless’ adventures in the Alaskan wilderness and the months long journey leading up to his arrival in Alaska. As the backstory unfolds, you learn more about McCandless, the pain of his childhood and slowly his motivations come into context. He is a charming, likeable young man, but he is also emotionally wounded, and like many young men he is confused and full of misguided idealism. Along the way you meet people whose lives he touched on his journey, many of whom were consultants on this movie.
Sean Penn did a great job on the screenplay and direction, and the cinematography is breathtaking at times. It is ultimately a brilliant and captivating telling of a true story and is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. It is 150 minutes long and not a fast moving movie but my eyes never left the screen, it was totally engrossing. There are excellent supporting performances by Hal Holbrook (nominated for Best Supporting Actor at 82 yrs old), Catherine Keener, William Hurt and Vince Vaughn. I was also interested to read that the character Rainey (the Hippie) was played by the film crews river guide, a man with no acting experience. Other roles were played by actual people known to Chris or who inhabited the same 'underbelly' of society, undoubtedly this contributes to the movies 'reality' feel.
This story is based on the famous book by Jon Krakauer who wrote it from Chris' own diaries and scribblings. We were unaware of the story or book beforehand and probably enjoyed the movie even more because of this, so I would not recommend 'Googling' beforehand!