The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: A Movie Review

randomlychad  —  December 30, 2013 — 12 Comments


At the outset, let me just state that I loved The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now let me tell you why:

The movie opens on Walter, alone, in his apartment, dressed for work, futzing around on social media. More specifically, he’s trying to work up the courage to send a “wink” to a coworker on eHarmony. He finally does, and… it doesn’t work. He can’t send the “wink.”

This begins one of the movie’s funnier subplots (it’s no spoiler to say that this involves Patton Oswalt, as he’s listed in the credits. You’ll just have to watch and find out how the whole eHarmony subplot is resolved). In fact, because I’m something of a literature nerd, this is but one instance of a Chekhov’s gun in the film. Chekhov’s gun, for the uninitiated, is a rule established by dramatist Anton Chekhov stating that one cannot introduce a gun in the first act that is not used later on.

There are numerous instances of this technique on display in Walter Mitty–none of which actually involve a gun. (If you see it, pay attention to: the aforementioned eHarmony subplot, a piano, a skateboard sequence, and a wallet). I bring this up because there is nothing wasted in this movie–the storytelling is tight, and focused. Within that framework, Ben Stiller has crafted a motion picture filled with great whimsy and flights of fancy. It is simultaneously grounded, and yet has its head in the clouds.

What a difference, say, from his 90’s era film, Reality Bites. In watching it, one gets the sense that, yes, reality can bite, but this is no reason to lose heart. In its opening sequence, in drab apartment, inside an even drabber building, that wistful tone is expertly portrayed: Walter is altogether too close to being a man who has lost heart. But it is upon arriving at work that day, when he learns of his company’s impending demise, that his journey begins. In storytelling terms, this is the inciting incident: the catalyst by which a character is forced to act. Walter’s is two-fold:

First, his company is reorganizing, and its next issue will be its last;

Second, a photographer with whom he has closely worked for sixteen years, has sent  negatives, stating that number 25 is his best work ever, and represents “the quintessence of life.”

Thing is, this negative is missing. Helping Walter track it down are his associate, Hernando, and a coworker named Cheryl.

Thus begins Walter’s journey. What begins as a quest for excellence becomes so much more. Walter thinks he is on a trip to find a photographer, but really he’s on a quest to get his heart back.

Isn’t that the same path we’re all on? We want to reclaim our hearts. We know there’s more to life, but have somehow lost it upon the way. On his way, Walter transitions from imaging himself to be a hero to actually being a hero.

He goes from existing to living, from surviving to thriving.

There are potholes on the way, the  temptation to lose heart arises again, but he digs deep, and gets the job done.

And if Walter can, so can I.

So can you.

So go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. You’ll be glad you did.




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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers.Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • Thanks for the review, Chad. I was already planning to see this one, but your glowing endorsement concreted my decision.

    • Cool, Jon! I think you’ll like it. Bonus is that it’s clean, i.e. no crude humor, and off the top of my head I can only recall maybe two, or three, cuss words.

  • I’m looking forward to seeing it.

    • I think you’ll like it, Larry.

  • Kim

    Fantastic review, Chad! Definitely going to have to look into this movie. Ben Stiller is a wonderful actor and the entire storyline of this movie sounds incredible.

    • Thanks, Kim. I tried very hard to capture the sense of wonder without spoiling it. The movie works on so many levels.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Also saw and loved this film. Great stuff. (I’d write more, but coffee.)

    • Coffee is truly one of life’s necessities. 🙂

  • Steve

    “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It was true 160 years ago when Thoreau penned those nine words and still is today. So many of us, like Mitty, feel we have no choice but to daily plod through an unfulfilling life on our path to the grave. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a clarion call to those that who have ears that it doesn’t have to be that way. Life is meant to be treasured and embraced not just endured. Loved the movie!

    • Exactly! Well said. Thanks for reading!

  • Dude, you captured the essence of this movie so well.

    • Thanks, Chris! Love that movie.