Without sounding clichéd The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a life adventure. I even felt quite emotional at the end of it. The office looser transforms into the hero as scenes similar to that in the school playground turn into an across the world adventure.
All sounding like something that’s been done before, but Walter Mitty is completely unique. Based on the short stories of the man living in a dream world we see into Walter’s life the way he wants it to be; compared to the reality of trying to be noticed by the woman he can’t stop thinking about, not being able to stand up to the office bully and the prospect of losing his job whilst attempting to pay for his mother’s retirement home.
However, the first half and second half of the film feel like almost two separate movies. The first shows Walter living his quiet life working at Life magazine, often too clearly pointing out his daydreaming moments by the other characters.
But when Walter, the ‘negative assets manager’, misplaces the vital photo for the cover of the magazines last edition his life becomes an adventure. In search for the famous and befriended photographer Sean O’Connell who took the sought after photograph, Walter finds himself in Greenland along with the eight inhabitants. This is when it becomes difficult to make out what is real and what is a dream. When there is no flash back to reality it is assumed that Walter has made the leap from wanting to doing. Forgive me for thinking jumping out of a plane and being targeted by a shark was still part of his dream land!
Whilst the beginning had felt like the film wasn’t really going anywhere, this is where the adventure picks up. Taking with him his empty travel journal from his late father, Walter is suddenly everywhere from Greenland and Iceland to Afghanistan, all on the hunt for the photo. Taking phone calls along the way from everyone’s favourite E-harmony worker ‘Todd’ and the woman he wants, Cheryl, who is back at the office trying to help Walter track down Sean O’Connell.
The second half of the film goes a lot faster; seeing Walter jump out of planes, spend at night at sea, trade a Mr Stretch toy for a skateboard, experience a volcanic eruption, eat a Papa Johns and get arrested at an airport – then bailed by a surprise appearance. When eventually the three photographs that had been clues add up it is an unexpected story for the audience. And when the final photograph that was at the centre of the whole adventure is revealed it is a happy ending moment.
Personally I think Ben Stiller can do no wrong and is a brilliant actor, but for the film he can also take credit as the director. The effects and photographic scenes in the film particularly stand out.
Whilst humour is added through the continuous phone conversations with Todd and the odd daydreams such as imitating a scene from Benjamin Button, emotion is also added by the hidden message of not just wanting to say or do something such as stand up to your boss, but actually doing it, something everyone can relate to. Sean Penn (playing photographer Sean O’Connell) may have the least amount of lines in the film but they are the most memorable with the statement ‘beautiful things don’t ask for attention’ and Life magazine’s motto frequently being referred to in the film – “To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to…to draw closer…to see and be amazed”.
The balance of humour, adventure and emotion makes The Secret Life of Walter Mitty likeable for almost anyone.