To call director Ang Lee’s latest film “Life of Pi” a visual feat of magnificent proportions would be an understatement.
The award-winning director’s first film in three years is an adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, which follows the life of Piscine “Pi” Patel, a teen who survives a tragic shipwreck and becomes stranded at sea on a life boat with just a tiger for companionship. The film stars Irrfan Khan as the adult version of Pi, who tells his story to a reporter seeking an idea for a book.
Suraj Sharma plays Pi during the flashback scenes, which comprises most of the film. Both actors’ performances are outstanding and Sharma definitely has the potential to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Although on the surface, simplistic and seemingly boring, Lee realizes that he must find a way to keep the story of a boy in a boat with a tiger continuously interesting over the course of two hours. He does this by constantly finding unique shots and ways to make the action seem larger than life.
While the script is very solid, and fairly accurate to the book, the true star in this film is the special effects. Another Oscar nod is a near certainty for the film in that category, because the film is breathtaking when seen in 3D.
Even though my views on 3D are probably known by now to those who read my reviews regularly, “Life of Pi” is what 3D should be. Not since James Cameron’s “Avatar” has the technology been used in the way Lee uses it: poetically in order to bring the film to life.
“Life of Pi” is not a movie, but an experience. Lee’s delicate yet, deliberate, use of the 3D invites audience members to live Pi’s life with him. It may very well be the best use of 3D ever, because rather than force it upon audience members, Lee eases it upon them naturally and before long, audience members find themselves on the boat right next to Pi, fully encompassed in the world Lee has created, which is one that is rich in color and has depth in its landscape. It’s fantastically beautiful and one can only hope that this film is an indication of where 3D movies are heading.
Possibly the film’s only flaw is the ending. Rather than just letting audiences accept and digest the miraculous journey Pi has just been taken on, the question of whether or not the story he has told is true becomes a plot line. Rather than give audiences a straight answer, Lee simply hints as to which story is the honest one, and this may leave some audience members to believe they sat through a two-hour story that may not have happened.
“Life of Pi” is almost definitely an Oscar contender and as the year winds down and the race for Oscar nominations heats up, “Pi” is one of the films that cannot be missed. On top of being one of the year’s best films, “Life of Pi” is a landmark film for 3D technology, and could very well have a serious impact on how films are made in the years to come.
4.5 stars out of 5.