Friday, November 23, 2012

Life of Pi (2012) - Movie Review

Maybe if Siegfried and Roy were on the boat, they would have been able to handle the tiger...

This is a difficult movie to describe, because it's hard to talk about it and not sound like I'm high.  It's one of those movies.  Life of Pi is yet another movie based off a book considered 'un-filmable'.  The original book, by Yann Martel, is just as ambitious as something like Cloud Atlas, but Pi succeeds where Atlas didn't, both in story and visuals.

The movie follow the story of 'Pi'.  His given name was "Piscine Molitor", after a swimming pool at a French hotel, but shortened it in school as his name sounded like 'pissing' and got a lot of hell from schoolmates.  Actually, the story stars with a writer who's introduced to an adult Pi through a mutual friend.  He's been told that Pi has a story that will make him believe in God, and wants to hear it.  As some of you may know, I'm not the most religious person, so I sometimes tune out when a movie hits you over the head with religious ideas.  Life of Pi felt more spiritual than religious though.  Pi was raised as a Hindu, but was introduced to concepts from Christianity and Islam at a young age, and appeared to accept the 'best of breed' concepts on more of a philosophical level.

As Pi tells his story, we learn that his family owned a zoo.  They decide to sell all the animals and move to Canada, but while transporting everyone on a Japanese cargo ship, the ship sinks during a storm, and Pi is the only survivor to make it on the lifeboat.  A tiger, named "Richard Parker", named due to a clerical error, has also found it's way onto the lifeboat.  At this point, it's cat and mouse game of Pi trying to stay alive on a makeshift raft, while trying to survive both the elements and the Tiger.

The main flaw of the movie is that it does drag at points as we follow Pi and Richard Parker drifting at sea.  It seems to go on for ages, and even the movie loses track of how much time has passed. That's my only real gripe.  The pacing could have been better.

The movie is a visual feast though.  I'm upset this movie wasn't available in IMAX in my area.  Life of Pi totally deserves to be seen in IMAX and 3D.  The 3D in this movie is Avatar-esque as far as quality and immersion.  There are several scenes in the film that are just as bright and colorful as anything you saw in Avatar.  The CG is so fantastic that I had a hard time believing that the creatures, especially the tiger, was real.  Whether it was a combo of CG and real animals, it's an example of when the line and CG and reality is totally blurred.

Ang Lee succeeds again and cements himself as a guy that can film difficult stories and sell them to the audience.  While I didn't connect with it emotionally, because I'm more machine than man, I saw many people wiping their eyes at the end of the movie.  David Magee's screenplay is faithful to the book, from what I hear, but the movie could have lost a few minutes here and there.

Besides the amazing visuals, that standouts of the film are the performances of Pi, by both Suraj Sharma as the young Pi, and Irrfan Khan as the older Pi.  It's really amazing to find that this is Suraj Sharma's first acting role.  He carries the majority of the film while acting against either a green screen or an animal.  This isn't the type of performance you'd expect from a novice, and I'm looking forward to bigger things from him now.  Khan provides some emotional depth as the older Pi recounting his story.

Life of Pi is a visually stunning movie that rivals Avatar, but has more emotional depth to it.  It features some of the best CG and 3D I've seen in a long time, but has strong performances backing it up.  The story can feel like a bit of a marathon, but I think that was kind of the point. This is definitely worth seeing in the theater.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

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