Penn's first film as a director was inspired by a Bruce Springsteen song - Highway Patrolman - one of many great tracks on the Boss' first solo album, Nebraska. Its about two brothers, one is a highway patrolman and the other is someone with considerably less self-control and a penchant for hard likker and violence. What the bad brother has done exactly is never made clear but Bruce lets us know that things are going from bad to worse and its going to be up to the cop brother to put a stop to things. This could involve violence, and it's a dead cert its going to take place on a long, lonely highway in a fast-moving vehicle, because most great Bruce songs involve these things. Here's a sample of the lyrics....
There was trouble in a roadhouse out on the Michigan line
There was a kid lyin' on the floor lookin' bad bleedin' hard from his head there was a girl cryin' at a table and it was Frank, they said
Well I went out and I jumped in my car and I hit the lights
Well I must of done one hundred and ten through Michigan county that night
Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good
(Since the book was published and again with the release of the film McCandless has become a controversial figure and much debate has raged around whether he was a self-centered nut or a modern day visionary with Christ-like qualities. Many have commented that Krakauer's work has ignored some of the facts that cast McCandless in a not so favourable light and basically put the boy on a pedestal. Many find his actions foolhardy and irresponsible, and believe that he had a death wish, and indeed anyone with even basic knowledge of living in the wild would know that McCandless was setting himelf up to fail. He simply did not have enough knowledge or equipment to prevail in such a harsh environment. Whichever way you slice it, McCandless made his choices and paid the ultimate price for his actions. No doubt he had his reasons. If anything else, his actions serve as a valuable cautionary tale for anyone else who may be foolhardy enough to take on the Alaskan wilderness - or any wilderness for that matter - without the proper experience or preparation.)