Sunday 5 January 2014

Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller's latest directorial effort, an adaptation of James Thuber's short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty hasn't been getting positive reviews; in fact, the uplifting tale of a downtrodden office worker who spends his days daydreaming is only just clinging onto a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Well, I'm here to tell you that they're wrong; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn't going to change your life or expand your mind, but it is worthy of your hard earned money. 

Whilst many will tell you that Walter Mitty is a remake of an adaptation, the truth is that the film shares only a central concept and a name with its source text. Stiller, who also directs and produces, stars as the lead, Walter Mitty. Walter spends his working life lurking in the photographic lab of Life magazine; the irony being that he doesn't have one. A life that is.

With the magazine downsizing to an online edition, the task of preparing the photograph for the very last cover of Life magazine is bestowed upon Walter, who swiftly discovers that he has lost it. The illusive negative ('number 25') has gone missing from the reel, and with his bosses breathing down his neck, it is up to him to track down the photographer (Sean O'Connell played by Sean Penn).

The film is split into distinct halves. The tone shifts from funny sketch(ish) comedy to uplifting, Life of Pi-esque hero tale. The rapid tonal changes (as Walter dips in and out of his fantasies) land on their feet the majority of the time, with only one or two feeling out of place.

Sometimes it felt as thought the movie didn't quite know which direction to take, whether it was going to be a straight-up comedy or drama, which might put-off audiences looking for something straight-forward.

Ben Stiller is far from being my favourite actor (the characters he usually play get on my nerves and deserve a hard slap in the face) but I actually found him enjoyable in the lead role here. Walter is a character we can all relate to as he drifts through days thinking of his dream girl and big-scale adventures.

Attune audiences will find that the narrative doesn't deviate too much from conventional practice - most will be able to pinpoint the specific story details before they unfold. As for the direction, Stiller has done a fantastic job of balancing the often frenetic dream sequences with serene landscapes and Icelandic vistas.

The film must be awarded some plus points for its core message; to quit daydreaming and live life by taking risks. The final half of the movie practically screams "Get your head out of the clouds" at the audience, something which will either inspire people or switch them off entirely. Personally, I liked it. As I'm at the stage of my life where you have to go out and make things happen, I related from the get-go.

The soundtrack (which contained the likes of Bowie, Arcade Fire and Of Monsters and Men) is an indie teens dream. Definitely one of the better movie soundtracks of the last year.

The Verdict: 6/10

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty lands smack bang in the middle of the spectrum; it's not overly funny or overly emotional but it deals with shades of both. Stiller is an effective lead alongside Wiig who adds a subtle element of charm. The soundtrack is hip and indie whilst the wide panoramic shots of the harsh Icelandic landscape are gorgeous.


  1. Nice review, and you are right about this landing pretty squarely in the middle. It's not terrible by any means, though it's also not without its glaring flaws here and there, but was overall an enjoyable enough flick, should you be able to overlook those flaws.

    1. Thanks for commenting Chris :) It was nice to see Stiller not playing the fool for once; if only the film had a bit more focus. Great soundtrack though!



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