Friday, March 14, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter

Director: Ben Stiller

Synopsis: Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a low-level magazine employee with a tendency for imagination and anonymity. Prone to colorful daydreams of adventure, heroism, and romance, Walter copes with his life of black and white. When the loss of a vital magazine cover photo jeopardizes his job as well as his beautiful coworker’s, Walter Mitty begins to see his daydreams become a reality. Breaking free to experience the world outside his cubicle, Walter’s search for security reveals the true purpose of life. 

Reviewer’s Rating: 4.5/5 Reels


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a humble yet adventurous film that relies heavily on vast scrolling landscapes to drive home a transformative plot line. There is a clear progression of Walter’s character that takes place throughout his exciting travels. The awkward romance between Walter and Sheryl is certainly not lost within the film’s many action-packed destination scenes. Overall, the film is both visually and thematically appealing throughout.

Ben Stiller takes on an uncharacteristically subdued role in this film and it works for him. Walter Mitty is a troubled character seeking freedom and Stiller captures the nuances of that perfectly. However, like any Ben Stiller film would, there are a couple “daydream” scenes that help us to remember his roots in slapstick comedy. I think we all could have lived without the overdramatized visual of Stiller in a “Benjamin Button” parody. Beside these, Ben Stiller’s performance is truly incredible considering his dual role as actor/director.

In the daydream scenes, the film shows a tasteful use of special effects that both establish a villain-esque character (Adam Scott) and serve to highlight the vastness of Walter Mitty’s imagination. When Scott’s character and Walter are seen battling for ownership of a “Stretch Armstrong” doll, the viewer is likely to be blown away by the fast-paced nature of the scene. From falling out of a window several stories up to traveling on broken asphalt down the streets of New York, this fantasy feels strangely real. Though it may have been easy to do so, the special effects do not distract from the overall “indie” feel of the film.

Ben Stiller is joined by an outstanding supporting cast, which succeeds in guiding Walter Mitty through his self-actualization journey. Kristen Wiig portrays a lovable romantic interest as she encourages the meek Mitty to reach for the stars. Walter’s progress is marked by several phone conversations with an excited E-Harmony employee played by Patton Oswalt. Finally, the “quintessence” of his transformation is seen through Walter’s conversation with the lone wolf Sean O’Connell, played by Sean Penn.

Filmed on location in some of the most beautiful parts of the globe, this movie shows great artistic merit. In perhaps the most exciting scene, a now rugged Walter long-boards down a vast and winding road in Iceland. Surrounded by rolling green hills and unhindered by others, the man barrels toward an active volcano using rocks that have been tied to his hands as steering. When he reaches the bottom of the road, it is difficult to refrain from clapping and shouting in his victory.

With an ending that is sure to touch the hearts of many, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty awakens that little part of everyone that wonders what it might be like to break free and “see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel.”

By: Ryan Stone

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Great review! I just had the pleasure of seeing this film this past week for the first time. I believe you did a great job of describing the overall theme of the film. I agree that Ben Stiller did an excellent job portraying a subdued role and could have easily gone without that Benjamin Button spoof (I can't get that image out of my head). I related very well with this film in the sense that I often check out of reality and image myself in a heroic situations. The beauty of the film is outstanding with the use of locations that aren't often seen in films. One other aspect I loved was the color palette in film, the use of teal and blue cold tones was visually pleasing and unique. All in all, your review does the movie justice and makes me want to watch it again very soon. - Josh Fulford

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this movie as well. It kind of slipped under the radar of "big" Hollywood movies, but I'm glad that people are seeing it because both the story and the visuals are incredible. The cinematography combined with rising music literally made me want to go to all those places, to "see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel." I think this movie captures the emotion and creates it in the viewer very well. As this movie is an adaptation of a very short New York Times story, which is very different from the movie, I think it does well to capture the essence of the daydreaming, methodical, office worker who wants more out of life. If I had to say so, I think the movie actually does more justice to the character of Walter Mitty than the story does, and ends on a hopeful note. When I left the theater that is the only way I can describe how I was feeling--hopeful. To inspire and create emotion like that is truly a gift and a much needed thing in life.


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