August Blind Spot Review: Into the Wild (2007)

into the wild poster

“The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.”
– Chris McCandless

SYNOPSIS: After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life. – via IMDB

into the wild alaska

GRADE 7Alright, now I can finally cross this off my massive watch list, too. I must say that while I enjoyed the movie, I did not absolutely love and adore it, and think it is a little hyped up. Maybe a tad too much. Anyway, that being said, there was a lot to like about this. There was the huge, sprawling backdrop of America that Chris traverses on his journey to Alaska, and all the people he meets along the way and the influence that he has on them and, inversely, them on him is fascinating and worth checking out. Hirsch, of course, shines here, and I think he is quite a talented actor. Chris and his motivations to up and leave his family one day are very complex, and can be seen as both understandable as well as completely cooked, depending which side of the spectrum you fall on and how you look at it. I think the whole cast did quite well with what they brought to the table, and made the tale real. I did enjoy the concept of finding yourself, becoming your own person, and how society influences all of these things on one hand, but at times the movie was a little heavy handed with sharing these concepts with the viewer. I also took issue with how long the movie is, and I am not one to quickly point something like that, especially not in a drama film, but this movie took forever. I was interested, not riveted, and I enjoyed it, but I do think that it could have done with some tightening. There were also parts where the movie felt hollow – like it set out to be something else, but didn’t quite hit the heights that it had wanted. For me personally, that is. Anyway, I think it is worth a watch, but I was not as taken with it as I had expected. The film is shot well, looks good, has a strong cast carrying it, and is interesting, but ultimately it falls a little short of the ambitious mark that it set for itself.

Review: Mystic River (2003)

mystic river poster

“Sometimes I think, I think all three of us got in that car…”
– Sean Devine

Three boyhood friends encounter a dreadful turn of events when two hebephiles pick one of them up. Dave Boyle (Cameron Bowen) never stood a chance, and Jimmy Markum (Jason Kelly) and Sean Devine (Connor Paolo) are left to watch their friend being taken away while under the assumption that he was picked up by cops. Their fathers have a fit and soon everyone is looking for Dave. Dave manages to escape from the two men after days of abuse and return home. Their childhoods have been changed forever.

mystic river the boys
“I guess I don’t know my own strength.” – Young Dave

Twenty five years later they have each moved on with their lives in different directions. Jimmy (Sean Penn) quit the criminal life and owns a little store and has a wife and three daughters, Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police with a wife who has run off and Dave (Tim Robbins) is a regular blue-collar Joe with a son and a wife. Jimmy has a nineteen-year-old daughter named Katie (Emmy Rossum) who plans to run off with her boyfriend Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry) and get married in Las Vegas, though Jimmy has no inkling of this. However, those plans stop dead in their tracks when Katie goes out with her friends one night for a final party and is brutally murdered on the way home. Just like that, it seems that the three parted friends will come together again.

mystic river jimmy finds out katie is dead
“I know in my soul I contributed to your death.” – Jimmy Markum

Jimmy is crushed to learn that his little girl was murdered. Sean feels for his friend when he sees the man, though pleads with him to keep his in-laws and all those criminals out of it so that he can conduct his investigation without hassles. Sean and his partner Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) track down every available lead to bring justice to Katie. Sean, on the other hand, has put the Savage brothers on the lookout, with Val (Kevin Chapman) in the lead. His wife, Katie’s stepmother Annabeth (Laura Linney) knows that her husband may need to exact revenge on whoever screwed up his daughter’s life. On the other hand, Dave’s marriage strains when he returns home the night of Katie’s murder covered in blood and spinning a flimsy story of having retaliated when a mugger attempted to attack him, and his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) soon decides that Dave must have killed the young girl. She is terrified, and soon the investigation touches onto her husband, and her paranoia goes into overdrive.

mystic river interview
“How long till you catch my daughter’s killer? I need to know.” – Jimmy Markum

What happened to Katie Markum that night? Who killed her? Is Dave in any way connected to the gruesome events of that night? Will Jimmy be able to hold his things together? What will the investigation turn up? Will Jimmy and his family ever recover? Will Sean bring them peace of mind? What will Celeste do about Dave?

An 8/10 for Mystic River. I was really impressed with how loyal the movie remained to the book. Naturally, there were a few small changes, but nothing that actually detracted from the story or the progression and development. I thought it had an excellent cast that manages to capture and portray the characters almost exactly as you would perceive them to be from the books. Sean Penn was the embodiment of Jimmy Marcus (books, Markum in the film), and Kevin Bacon completely held down the part of embittered cop who is separated from his wife and on a mission. All in all it came together well – the pacing was right, I enjoyed the camerawork, the performances very good, though I did find the music to be a bit strange, like something from a much older movie altogether. I would recommend this film, not only to readers, but to anyone that enjoys a good and solid drama. Clint Eastwood did a damn fine job of bringing this depiction of Mystic River to the fore, and is incredibly impressive.