Review: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacClaine, Patton Oswalt.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), an employee in charge of the photography negatives at Time Magazine, find himself constantly daydreaming of exciting events happening to him, all of which centre around Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), a new employee at the magazine’s payroll department whom he has not worked up the courage to speak to yet. Attempting to contact her through an online dating site, he is. unable to do so because his profile is left mostly blank having not done anything especially noteworthy or mentionable.
When word comes down that the magazine will undergo a structural change to become an online only magazine, a roll of negative comes in from renowned photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) with a note that cell 25 would be the perfect cover for the last print edition, only that when examining the roll, Walter finds that cell 25 is not there. With no idea what the shot is, or where he will find it, Walter finds himself under pressure from the magazine’s transitional editor (Adam Scott), and speaks to Cheryl to find and track Sean down, heading out on an adventure around the world to find him.
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is perhaps Ben Stiller’s best directed movie to date, though many will find it lacking based on his previous movies and the method in which it has been advertised by the movies trailer. This is not a comedy, it is a drama that would more often be associated with the likes of directors Wes Anderson or Ang Lee, focusing on the character of Walter as he goes on a journey that forces him to undergo some life altering decisions. Though there are comedic elements contained within the movie, they are neither for focus of the movie nor should they be. This is a more intellectual and grown up Stiller, deciding to shy away from slapstick humour that is most welcome.
It is not a perfect movie by any means, and has more than its fair share of issues. At times it seems overly self-indulgent and borders on being pretentious with certain elements – largely during the moments when Walter is having one of his daydreams, which are fantastical as they should be and do work, but are often far longer than they need to be, dragging down the pace of the movie. This is especially evident during the first 20-25 minutes of the movie, during which the monotony of Walter’s life is presented well, but unfortunately comes across on the screen a little bit too well.
After this though, when Walter makes the decision to head off and find Sean, the pacing picks up and improves greatly, with some stunningly impressive and enjoyable sequences. There are some genuinely beautiful shots in this movie, not only of gorgeous landscapes, but also with some of the cinematography of everyday city locations, a highlight being a transitional shot that follows a plane as it flies from the built up cities of the United States to the luscious natural looking land of Greenland. There’s also a great use of music throughout to give the movie an odd yet uplifting tone that contributes to the movie’s pleasantness.
Anybody interested in this has likely already seen the trailer which has been shown before movies for a little while now, which is unfortunate, as I have already mentioned, the trailer is mis-leading in that it makes the movie out to be more than what it is, and due to Stiller’s involvement, most audiences will be expecting a comedy and will be disappointed which is a shame, because Stiller is fantastic both on camera and behind it. If this is what he is looking to do in future, I welcome the change and hope to see him do more dramatic roles and direct more dramatic movies like this.