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A Career-Best Role for Ben Stiller
on 18 November 2014
Ben Stiller, in arguably his career-best performance, plays Walter Mitty.
Walter is a single, 42 year old guy, who's unprepossessing, morose, bored with his life, and too scared to pursue the girl of his dreams, his attractive work-colleague Cheryl. He's a member of the dating website e-harmony, with nothing to write in his life experiences box. He works for Life Magazine as a "negative asset manager", which is fitting, because he treats his life like a big negative. However, and more interestingly, he's a daydreamer, a fantasist, who's able to escape his mundane reality into a World where he can be a superhero and win Cheryl's heart.
Walter's profile manager at e-harmony, Todd, is a voice in his ear at certain parts of the movie, a guy with whom Walter can bounce ideas around.
Slowly, but surely, the introverted Walter emerges out of his life-long shell, primarily because of a life-changing sequence of events spawned by a missing photo negative...
A renowned photographer named Sean O'Connell (played by Sean Penn), sends Walter a box of negatives, but one is missing, called "Quintessence of Life". Walter then feels compelled to go on a quest to track down the missing negative, which sees him embark on a thrilling real-life escapade which mirrors his amazing fantasy life. He ends up in locations including Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan.
The film is a very beautifully shot, visual treat, especially once Walter gets over to Iceland. The later scenes of the Himalayas are stunning to behold. It's both moving and satisfying to watch the character of this shrinking violet blossom, as he gradually stops living vicariously inside his head, and discovers an appetite to experience the wonders of life for himself. The dreams still remain a part of Walter's life, but they stop being the highlight of a humdrum existence, and instead they augment a far more absorbing new reality. The film has a very cool soundtrack, with covers of songs by the likes of Human League and David Bowie. Ben Stiller gives an atypically restrained performance, and you soon find yourself rooting for the evolving Walter to make far more exciting and memorable things happen in his life.
This is a fine life-journey movie, which had me comparing it with the Julie Roberts movie, Eat Pray Love - Eat, Pray, Love [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]. If you enjoyed Eat Pray Love, you'd probably like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and vice versa. The main difference between the two movies is that Eat Pray Love places a lot less reliance on CGI.
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