Director: Ben Stiller
This is a beautifully crafted film. In a film about dreaming, the whole movie is peppered with striking images that are both hyper-real and dream-like in their clarity. From the clean-cut lines of New York City to the greens and greys of the wilds of Iceland, we are plunged into a world of quirks and idiosyncrasies that could rival the best Charlie Kaufman or Wes Anderson universe. And just as Walter cannot tell the difference between what's real and what's reality, so too are the audience led to question whether anything they are seeing is real or not. Of course there are visual clues, but as the excitement in his own life intensifies, is what we're witnessing actually truth, or a truth moulded from his dreams? Whichever the answer, and I think it is open to interpretation even if the majority would agree that we are seeing the truth, the way that Stiller and his cinematographers craft this daydreaming, half-dreaming landscape is playful and beautiful.
In the Danny Kaye film, Mitty was driven by the contrast between his dreams and his reality, where his family and his wife trampled all over him, leaving him a wilting nobody. As the figures from his dreams become a reality, he overcomes his fears, stands up to the people around him and finally rears his head above the parapet to become a very unlikely hero. While the Ben Stiller version is, in essence, very similar, what differs here is that Mitty clearly is a very talented and valued man, but he is unable to see this. His family, his co-workers and even potential love interest (Wiig, in a role that completely underuses her considerable comic talents) see that spark in him, love him and trust him; in this version of the story, the obstacle that Mitty must overcome is wholly internal, which I believe makes it a better film. The Danny Kaye film plays on the obvious and is very much aimed at a young audience, but this version, despite its PG certificate, is a much more adult fable about self-worth, self-confidence and fulfilling potential.
The film has its problems, of which pacing is certainly one of them, but I can't fault Stiller in his ambition. In updating a classic that most have forgotten, he has created a whole other beast in a film that transcends genre or stylistic classification. It is ambient, subtle and very human, but also thrilling and a damn good watch. I hate to use the word "life-affirming", but that's exactly what this is; The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind meets Forrest Gump meets Vanilla Sky and is subsequently one of the most original films I've seen all year.