Ben Stiller has long been pigeonholed as a quintessential Hollywood comic actor. His career is typified by hilarious but low brow comic roles, in movies like Zoolander and Dodgeball. His latest project – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – marks a real departure from his previous work, and sees him taking a more dramatic role onscreen, and stepping up to director behind the camera.
Walter Mitty works in the photographic department of ‘Life’ magazine, where he spends his days managing photographs taken by photographers all over the world. He frequently escapes into his own imagination, fantasising about travel, heroics and grand romantic gestures. Only when he finds his job on the line, and a key photograph missing, does Walter find himself on his own great adventure.
On the surface the film is a cutesy fantasy movie, with several shiny big budget action sequences. There are good performances from the key established actors, and a fairly standard plot arc. At this basic level Walter Mitty could very easily be a disposable Hollywood movie.
…it doesn’t fall into the trap of being another dull love story…
More deeply than this though, the film is a tribute to the much mourned Life magazine, and a love letter to travel and life experience. The film’s sweeping landscape shots are reminiscent of Life magazines double page spreads, and there are gratuitous shots of people and wildlife. The film manages to be something of a travelogue of unlikely destinations, journeying from Greenland to the Himalayas, via several other stops.
Enjoyably this is a story of self-discovery, with a love interest taking the back seat. The film is not faultless, but while occasionally twee or ridiculous it doesn’t fall into the trap of being another dull love story or predictable genre piece.
…interspersed with wittily observed comic moments…
Music is key to this film with an indie-style soundtrack that helps create a real sense of atmosphere. Jose Gonzalez features heavily, giving a relaxed, worldly feel to things.
The film softly preaches the message of experience and joy, rather than routine and security. Walter Mitty leaves his dark office, explores the world, and finds himself changed. While interspersed with wittily observed comic moments, the film has a serious message to communicate. Its tagline, ‘Stop Dreaming, Start Living’ neatly sums up everything the film is about.
…a man of many talents…
The film is escapism at its best, both for the protagonist and the watching audience. As the story reaches its conclusion, it’s impossible not to contract a dire case of wanderlust, and a new found respect for Ben Stiller, a man of many talents.