At first glance, nothing appears special. An ordinary man sitting in an ordinary kitchen partaking in the ordinary task of balancing a checkbook, the usual. This mundane opening scene, however, proves to be a false representation of the rest of the film as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” tosses ordinary out the window and swaps it for a thought-provoking tale of adventure, danger, and self-discovery.
Watching the day-to-day life of Life magazine employee Walter Mitty unfold onscreen at first does not seem so interesting. His struggle with the monotonous routine of processing negative images for the magazine in the dark depths of the basement is thrown into chaos when an arrogant alpha male, Ted Hendricks, bursts onto the scene and announces that Life magazine is going to be letting employees go and transitioning to the digital age — all the content being produced will only appear online. With employees dropping like flies and a moot crush on his co-worker, Cheryl, it’s the icing on the cake when the final negative for the last issue of the magazine, sent by legendary photographer Sean O’Connell, goes missing. It is in this moment of crisis that Mitty’s secret life comes to the forefront of the movie and the real action begins.
Ben Stiller, who portrays Walter Mitty, excels as a daydreaming fool who longs for a different life. His meek demeanor and vacant expressions when “zoning out” are the perfect accompaniment to the elaborate scenes he constructs in his mind, involving burning buildings and complex fighting scenes on the streets of New York that allow comic relief and keep things light. Stiller’s ability to display impressive character development, transforming Mitty from a defeated, slightly pathetic guy stuck in a funk to a man who takes risks and conquers the world is a pleasure to experience. Kristen Wiig, who stars opposite Stiller as love interest Cheryl Melhoff, succeeds in acting as Mitty’s muse and inspiration. Wiig does her job well, showcasing Melhoff as a big encouragement to Mitty and one of the few people who believes in him and is vital in sending him off on his global mission. Her imaginary appearances serenading to Mitty are quirky and sweet.
The cinematography is what truly stole the show in this film. The rolling hills and volatile volcanoes of Iceland are visually stunning and leave the audience in awe. From dry, desolate terrain to the frigid mountains, the locations depicted in this movie evoke a strong yearning to travel in anyone.
The simplicity in this film captured by director Ben Stiller himself, is brilliant. Stiller somehow manages to bottle the meaning of life into an hour and 54 minutes, striking the perfect balance of profound scenes, like the deep quote by Sean O’Connell “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention,” visual artistry, and quality acting.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” does more than entertain, it challenges the mind and stimulates deep introspection as to the meaning of life and what we as individuals value. This film has perhaps one of the simplest storylines, but is also the most enriching and captivating that I have seen in a very long time. A ticket to this feel-good movie is more than worth the money, as it will inspire, motivate, and make you leave the theatre with a smile on your face and a feeling that you can take on the world.
RECOMMENDED: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a beautifully shot adventure that shows Ben Stiller at his best as a director.