Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is an excellent movie. It is the story of Christopher McCandless’ ill-fated coming of age journey. It was a story I followed as it was a news oddity about a kid who walked off into the Alaskan wilderness ill-prepared and died, and more fully explored (apparently) in Jon Krakauer’s book.
The movie showed a far more complex story of a young man who’s crisis of faith in the economic and political assumptions of suburban society drove him to seek a deeper meaning. Far from being ill-prepared he thrived for years in his adventures and met and influenced many people along the way, literally changing their lives by his own living example, apparently even more so than the movie had space to fully explain.
Emile Hirsch is really excellent as Alexander Supertramp, giving a believable and engaging performance all the way through. He is likable and compelling and goes through some pretty amazing physical changes during the course of his adventures.
Everything about the movie works, from the funny characters and light moments to the bitter and tragic end. The movie even succeeds as a nature film with extraordinary footage of the wild places he visited and particularly gorgeous footage of Alaska.
Blind Mountain is a Chinese film about a college educated woman who is tricked into visiting a remote village on the pretense of looking for medicinal herbs and is instead sold into bondage as a slave-wife.
The film succeeds in sustaining a sense of danger and tension from the opening to the final frame, literally. The heroine is also well-treated, portrayed as respectable, strong, and intelligent she makes good and logical choices – that is despite the horror and tension of the situation, she is not reduced to being a horror movie victim. The film also explores the lack of overt malice and moral ambiguity of the captors, and makes a case for why previous victims might have chosen to accept their fate, adopting a tolerable life amidst the incredible beauty of the Western mountains of China.