Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

When you’re watching a film and at one point you see the director elevating him or her self to a higher level, it’s truly an exciting and grateful thing to experience. In real life, can we also elevate to the next step without any fear or pain?  Ben stiller’s 6th feature length film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” has just valued him to the higher era of that untouchable major film studio director status gracefully.


The story is base on James Thurber’s popular short story of the same name, published in New Yorker magazine in 1939. It was then adapted to film in 1947, Broadway stage in 1960 and many short films through out the time. This 2013 modern version is an inspirational music comedy, screenplay by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man) and directed and played by Ben Stiller himself.


A forty something single daydreamer, Walter Mitty, has worked 16 years in the negative assets department at the famous LIFE magazine (which ceased the print version on April 20, 2007), merging smartly into the real magazine history. Walter Mitty has never been to anywhere but admiring all the beautiful photo work sent by photographers from around the world while developing them. He’s obsessed with his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and often daydreaming himself as an adventurous hero in an imaginary world fill with action and romance. When the magazine announce the transition from print to digital, it is decided that the last issue of the printed magazine will use the photo of negative no. 25 as the cover –  a photo sent by the famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Walter can’t find the negative and has to find O’Connell who travels around the world for it.


A NIKE Just do it!-ad on big screen with beautiful songs by José González, Of Monsters and Men, Junip and David Bowie. The film is a little bit corny maybe, and again paired with some bully topic, seems to be expectedly cliché but it is absolutely inspirational and open hearted to an audience of all ages and especially for the generation of a similar age of Ben Stiller. The storyline is simple without struggle but yet full of twists and layers at the same time. The picture is stunningly shot by Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady, Lone Star, Amelia) in a nowadays rare 35 mm. format and the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 gives just the right visual pleasure when the concrete jungle New York and the spectacular landscape of Iceland is in sight.


The producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr.’s father produced the 1947 adaption, and this new adaption project started in 1994 and went through many script writers. The role of Walter Mitty traveled through Jim Carrey, Owen Wilson, Mike Myers, Sacha Baron Cohen, and the director role went from Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Gore Verbinski (The Lone Ranger, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Ring) when finally, in 2012, the lead role landed on Ben Stiller, who also was announced as the director later on. A chance of a lifetime project to wake up any daydreamer.


The short story author James Thurber might have had the Charles Bonnet syndrome which could happen to any mentally healthy person with a certain vision loss and causes some complex vivid hallucinations that often appear to visually impaired people in general. Whether your sight is far from 20/20 or you’re simply a hopeless daydreamer drowning inside of James Thurber’s stories, this new adaption of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” can definitely urge you to book your next travel to the grand nature.

– Shumaï Chou