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walter mitty posterJanuary 18, 2014
Think about the last time you indulged in your aspirations. How long has it been since you let go and listened to that call beckoning you to do something you love? Now what about the last time you daydreamed about it instead? Escaping reality by imagining a different world (or a different you) keeps things safer for sure – but what about the rest of life? What about those desires you’ve incessantly wanted to accomplish? Did you give them a chance? I’ve always been an ambitious chap and at times have battled with myself, and those closest to me, about chasing my dreams versus playing it safe. And what you’ll find in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a beautiful construction of this.

Directing and starring as the title role, Ben Stiller escapes from his former life of the funny, awkward jokester and into this new role of a relatable character living a life worth living. Interlaced with his familiar comedy that we’ve come to associate from the likes of “Meet the Parents” and “Tropic Thunder,” “Walter Mitty” shows a more mature world in every sense; one not only revealed in his acting, but reflected in how people today trap their passions and stop yearning for something more.

While living his 16-year tenure inside the four walls of the Time & Life Building, Walter continually daydreams of a more expansive and action-filled life he wishes he lived. He’s assigned the task of supplying the cover photo of Life Magazine’s final issue. The company’s about to become a strictly online presence and the threat of losing careers looms over all of the employees. So when he cannot find the photo that is suggested to be used by Life’s most esteemed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), he takes the opportunity to break through those walls and go on a global search for the missing photo Sean calls the “quintessence of life,” – and discovers just that.

The script is full of vibrant characters and actions. Walter’s encouraged by the attractive new employee at Life, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristin Wiig) urging him to go find the missing photo; meeting drunken helicopter pilots, Icelandic sailors, and Himalayan warlords along the way. We also encounter intense action throughout the film from erupting volcanoes to a downtown Manhattan brawl between Walter and the directing transition manager Ted (Adam Scott) over a Stretch Armstrong. So you see how the script has some awesome writing in it. The cinematography shows us the worlds Walter lives from the colorful layouts of his daydreams to the gray-scales of his everyday life. These slowly blend together as the film progresses and Walter mixes his imagination with his reality. All of this overlaid with a gorgeous score from Theodore Shapiro as well as stirring soundtrack selections from Of Monsters and Men, Jose Gonzalez, and Junip makes this a truly engaging film.

The theme throughout “Walter Mitty” combines the aspects of living in a modern world and striving for our heart’s desires, but it also projects a theme of staying connected to each other. It’s most aptly explored through the ongoing phone conversations Walter has with Todd from e-harmony (Patton Oswald) who we meet in the very first scene. Walter’s relationship to his mother (Shirley MacLaine) and sister, Odessa (Kathryn Hahn) is a loving one that gives him a grounded backdrop and later in the film shows how connected all the charterers truly are. Often times, people feel they must seclude themselves and limit their connections to what is familiar and around them, saying things like “it’s so far” or “but I don’t know anyone there.” This movie shows how unfounded these thoughts can be by exhibiting not just a courageous story of a man fulfilling his ambition, but also how we can stay connected while setting forth on new horizons.

“Walter Mitty” is a great reflection of how today’s world may seem to many. With a still recovering economy and a less than perfect job market, it’s become all too accustomed to find people stuck in their jobs and leaving their aspirations on the back burner. This film doesn’t shove you in the back and tell you that the life you’re living isn’t the right one. What’s discovered, rather, is that aspirations of any kind shouldn’t be ignored. Find the inspiration to explore your passions, whatever they may be. “That is the purpose of life.”

Ryan Schwalm

Author Ryan Schwalm

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