Penn made some really good decisions. The cast was wonderful, maybe even predictable. Penn chose previous costars like Marcia Gay Harden, old classics such as Hal Holbrook, and newcomers like Emile Hirsch. Penn also had a good idea with the flashbacks. It was a smart move dynamic wise for the evolution of Chris McCandless into Alexander Supertramp.
The truly amazing thing about the film is Hirsch's performance. I'm not sure anyone knew that Emile Hirsch could handle such a substantial role. Alexander Supertramp transforms . Emile Hirsch sacrificed a lot for the role. He physical ability and training skyrocketed. He loses a substantial amount of weight by the end of the film. He is truly skilled at protraying the tranformation of Chris. The reality of Supertramp's situation is not apparent until the end of the film. Sorry for the spoiler, but the point where he eats the poisonous plant leads to his subsequent death. He has never been thiner, sicker, and more pathetic than at this point in his life. He has accomplished his goal, only to be too weak to find food. His success is in his death.
I have been to Alaska and hiked up to a glacier, however after watching the film, it doesn't seem like much of a feat anymore. It is a beautiful as depicted on screen; it made me miss the open spaces. The real beauty of the film is in the landscape. The story means so much more when you feel a part of the atmosphere. It is hard to comprehend the enormity of Chris's decision except in the context of the vastness of Alaska.