All hail Walter Mitty’s imagination

Go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a negative asset manager at Life Magazine. Filing the last edition of the magazine before it moves online Walter is sent the front cover negative from longtime Life photographer, Sean O’Connell. Only it is missing. And so begins Walter’s worldwide adventure to locate it. Then there is Cheryl, the co-worker he doesn’t quite have the courage to tell how he feels and Ted Hendricks, the brilliantly irritating executive installed to make everyone redundant.

I nearly didn’t bother. I’d read reviews calling it ‘bland’ and checked the 47% rotten tomato score.

But go for the story of the power of imagination. Imagination moves from being a lively distraction from Walter’s humdrum existence to becoming his inner guidance and the inspiration to find his courage, step in to the unknown and live his dreams.   

Go for the wonderful photography from Jane Campion’s cinematographer, Stuart Dryburgh. Iceland, majestic landscapes, bird’s eye views, stunning architecture and enormous front covers of Life Magazine. On the big screen. Heavenly.

Gasp at the Marilyn Monroe Life front cover shot.  Even if Life has one of the most incomprehensible purposes ever stated (they refer to it at least 4 times in the film and it still doesn’t sink it or make immediate sense) it must have one of the most wonderful photography archives in the world.  Oh to believe that negative asset library in the dark dungeon is a real place just for the chance to wander through it.

Go for the brilliant visual effects of the opening credits. Beautiful graphic fonts are painted across the walls, roads and train stations of Walter Mitty’s environment.

Go for Ben Stiller producing, directing and leading as Walter Mitty.  What an achievement.  And you can’t fail to notice how Ben becomes increasingly handsome as the film goes on.  I’ve never found him handsome before but just what did they do to his eyes to make them that alive, intense and blue?

Go for the line delivered by Sean Penn: “A thing of beauty does not seek attention.”  And for the dialogue about how as a photographer there are moments that are so powerful he ignores his camera and instead chooses to be completely present and lose the shot. 

So what if the story doesn’t hang together in parts and the person next to me fell asleep for a few minutes. The film has imagination, finding the courage to live your dreams, photography, architecture, mystery, adventure and love all rolled in to it. And for that beautiful mix I don’t want to criticise it even just a little bit.


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