Despite its widespread popularity and its nearly 10-year home on my bookshelf, I’ve never actually read Yann Martel‘s novel Life of Pi. But after seeing the previews of Ang Lee’s 3D epic tale I couldn’t resist making my way to the box office. And, despite my low-bar expectations, “Life of Pi” blew me away.
Combining a lifetime of storytelling sophistication with arguably the best 3D technology seen on the big-screen, director Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“) breathes life into the story of a young Indian boy (newcomer Suraj Sharma) lost a sea on a small lifeboat with a very hungry Bengal tiger.
But before we go any further, the backstory — born in a zoo, Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi for short) lived his entire life surrounded by animals. But hard economic times prompt his family to announce the family will move to Canada, where he will sell all of the animals. Thus their home and zoo are packed-up and put on a cargo ship to cross the vast ocean. But before they get there, they’re caught in a horrific storm and the ship sinks leaving Pi, the only human survivor aboard a 27-foot lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. As survival of the fittest winnows the group, we’re left with only Pi and an unnatural companion, the tiger.
The story that unfolds follows Pi’s intense, almost impossible struggle to survive. It’s a journey filled with self-discovery, self-denial and questions of faith — truly one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever watched.
Above all else the film is a visual marvel. From its first frames, to scenes of blue skies, an expansive ocean and the magnificent life below its surface– nearly every frame resembles a gorgeous watercolor painting. So fascinating and beautiful to watch, you dare not risk blinking, for fear of missing a single moment. This is the kind of film you experience instead of merely watch.
The verdict: Simply put, “Life of Pi” is glorious. A motion-picture marvel that takes 3D to new heights (one of the few films I’ll say you actually NEED to see in 3D if you’re going to see) is truly a a compelling tale of adventure, magic and stunning visual effects. The boy and tiger deserve a watch.
Opens: November 21, 2012
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain