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Sean Penn's gripping film "Into the Wild" is the story of nature journeyman Christopher McCandless, an Emory graduate who gave away (and burned) all of his money in an effort to disconnect him from the material world in which he was raised.  McCandless set off on a undefined course that took him through the Pacific northwest and eventually to Alaska where he spent several months living in an abandoned bus, and off the land. Eventually, he died from starvation.  Emile Hirsch stars in the lead role, and his performance is nothing short of magic.  A modern day Emerson, McCandless is on his own quest, enjoying all aspects of his travels -  from spending nights on the beach to hiking the hills with an old man.  Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook, who may be this year's Alan Arkin, are a few of the people he encounters along the way.  Not surprisingly, they are each wonderful.  If you've ever had any thought, absurd as it may sound, of packing a bag and setting out on the open road, "Into the Wild" will speak to you.  And if not, I sense that you'll greatly appreciate Penn's beautiful pictures of the American landscape along with some exceptional acting.  Mark it down: "Into the Wild" is one of the best films of the year. 

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