The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed and starred by Ben Stiller, features the tale of a not so “noteworthy,” Negative Asset Manager of LIFE Magazine. The title explains the film perfectly itself; Walter Mitty is a daydreamer who tends to escape his boring life to his many different fantasy lives of being a hero. As the LIFE magazine transitions into its final month of print, before becoming an only on-line medium and the laying off of many employees, Mitty is put in charge with the cover photo as always. However, a turn of events takes place and the photo to be published, known as “Negative 25: The Quintessence of Life,” from the famous nomad photographer, Sean O’Connell is missing. With no means of contacting O’Connell, Mitty sets off on a world adventure (from Greenland to Iceland to the Upper Himalayas) in search of the “quintessence of life.”
This movie is truly a work of art, however, it is the soundtrack and music from the film that makes it what it is supposed to be: inspirational and courageous. Composer Theodore Shapiro (The Devil Wears Prada, We’re the Millers) and Ben Stiller were deeply involved in bringing together a soundtrack of light and harmonious scores and picking out upbeat songs that matched scenes in a way to further explain situations.
When Walter first sets off on his adventure, we see him dreaming of a picture of O’Connell coming to life and signaling Walter to go find him. The song that begins to play is Wake Up written by Arcade Fire. This modern, somewhat rock-like song has an upbeat tempo then taking off into a heavenly sounding voice, and finally going into lyrics. We see Walter running, with his iconic briefcase, past covers of LIFE Magazine featuring men of greatness. As Walter pasts the last cover, we see that it is featuring himself dressed in astronaut attire with the tagline, “Making of a Brave Man.” Furthermore, while we are being taken through his journey to Greenland, we are shown the motto of LIFE Magazine.
The Lyrics presented in the song are “Somethin’ filled up my heart with nothin’, someone told me not to cry…but now that I’m older, my heart’s colder, and I can see that it’s a lie.” We know that this song seems to have a sort of coming of age theme. According to Gianetti, “Music can be used as foreshadowing,” I feel that this song was perfectly picked by Shapiro and Stiller in that it helps to show that this scene represents how Walter is growing and moving from his day dreaming habits as well as what else is to come in his epic journey, becoming a “brave man.”
Another great example of the placement of a song is when Walter is in Greenland and he now knows what his next mission is in the search for the missing negative. Walter is faced with needing to get to a boat that may have clues of O’Connell’s whereabouts. He is to travel to this boat by helicopter, however, the pilot is a nervous, drunk man and Walter is worried to get on with.
Walter goes into another one of his daydreams: He sees his love interest and co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff, beginning to sing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. The lyrics of this song, “Ground control to Major Tom,” are previously used as making fun of Walter. But Melhoff reassures Walter that the song is about a courageous man, thus a great use of this song for this scene to give Walter the encouragement to join the drunk pilot on the helicopter to his next destination.
These two songs do great things to encourage Walter on his journey, and in the end Walter becomes a new man, finds O'Connell and the Quintessence of Life which is...well you'll just have to watch the movie to find out. And let me tell you, you will have the biggest smile on your face when it's over.
I think Shapiro and Stiller did excellent work throughout the film to compose a soundtrack that is not only appealing to the ears, but also has a way to grab the attention of the audience and bring them a deep connection to Walter that no other film does with a character. I know that when I watch this film, especially the two scenes I gave above, I'm filled with so much emotion and feel very close to Walter. Not to mention, I get a sudden urge to have my own coming of age adventure too!! Therefore, I give this soundtrack 3 out of 3 director cuts!