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Yesterday afternoon, I had an opportunity to catch a screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, the film tells the story of a seemingly ordinary man who encounters the extraordinary via “zoning out” into elaborate and fantastic daydreams.

Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a sixteen-year veteran employee of LIFE Magazine in charge of processing photographic negatives. Unfortunately for Walter and his coworkers, LIFE is in transition from print media to an online presence, and massive downsizing is taking place. As the staff prepares what will be the final printed issue, Walter receives a set of photos from Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), an elusive freelance photographer who still works with film. Sean requests that negative #25 from the set be selected as the final issue’s cover photo, but much to Walter’s dismay, negative #25 is nowhere to be found. When clues from the rest of the photographs in the set point to Greenland, Walter sets off to save his job by finding O’Connell, in the hopes that he might still have the missing negative.

As a fan of Ben Stiller’s work in comedy, I was very excited to see him taking on a far more dramatic role than he usually plays. As Mitty, he presents a man whose life is so dull and dreary that his fantasies are initially his only likable quality. They give glimpses into the man he could become. Interactions with his coworkers, family, and crush, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) quickly prove that there’s more to Walter than meets the eye. As his attempts to find the last photo lead him around the world, Walter Mitty learns that his “secret life” in his dreams is nothing in comparison the beauty and splendor that can be found in reality.

With a soaring soundtrack to match the vivid cinematography, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a solid and thought-provoking film. Transitions into and out of Walter’s daydreams are brilliantly done, to the point where Walter himself has trouble distinguishing fact from fiction as his adventures grow. As the film goes on, the motto of the magazine becomes more and more relevant. “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” 

I loved this movie, plain and simple. If you have the time, give it a shot.

2 Comments

  1. Good review. Needless to say, all problems with this movie aside, I look forward to what it is that Stiller can do next with his time as a director.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked the review. I’m intrigued to see where Stiller goes next, because he has certainly shown that he is a capable director.


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