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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Suraj Sharma, Ayush Tandon, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu
DIRECTED BY
Ang Lee
SCREENPLAY
David Magee (Screenplay), Yann Martel (Novel)
MPAA RATING
Rated PG
RUNNING TIME
127 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Fox 2000 Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
Mini-Documentaries, storyboards; On the Blu-Ray/3D Combo you also get deleted scenes, VFX Progression
 "Life of Pi" Brings 3-D Fully Into The Story 
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I left Ang Lee's Life of Pi feeling as if I had been entertained, but also feeling aware that the film hadn't left me in awe on nearly the level that I had expected from a film that had woven together 3-D technology with the mesmerizing imagery of one of contemporary cinema's true masters of the beautifully photographed motion picture.

The next day, however, Life of Pi was still floating around in my psyche' and lingering in the thoughts and images within my mind.

Then next day, I had the very same experience.

And so on and so on.

Life of Pi isn't a film of awe-inspiring 3-D technology and overwhelming visuals. Instead, Ang Lee's incorporation of 3-D technology into the digital fabric of Life of Pi transcends the need to awe and, instead, allows itself to exist as yet another magnificent layer of the story. Seldom has realism and mysticism so peacefully co-existed as it does within Life of Pi, a film that is arguably Lee's most technologically ambitious to date.

Based upon a novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi manages to exist as the practical definition of what it would mean to be an arthouse family film. The film exists on the same cinematic plane as Cameron's Avatar and Scorsese's Hugo, yet in many ways surpasses those films by telling a compelling story with compelling characters who are never overwhelmed by the 3-D technology. Scorsese came close, but occasionally his storytelling lagged behind his use of the technology. Here, Ang Lee has created a film that neither depends on the technology nor is it the usual afterthought that we find in so many films these days. Lee has clearly given significant thought as to how to weave 3-D into this story and these characters, and while Life of Pi is unlikely to resonate with the smallest of children it is a film that will likely captivate adults and children alike.

The story centers around a 16-year-old boy, Pi, who finds himself lost at sea following a shipwreck with only himself, a few meager rations and a, well, Bengal tiger.

To his credit, Lee takes time to set the story up well with our introduction to an older Pi (Irffan Khan) being visited by a writer (Rafe Spall) who has heard that he has a magnificent story. We are then introduced to a younger and more curious Pi (Ayush Tandon), and we are given ample life experiences in which we are able to bond with the young lad. Over time, he establishes himself as a bit of a spiritual seeker and, thus, the foundation has been laid for an entertaining yet meaningful journey once Pi finds himself on board the ocean liner with his family on their way out of an economically challenged India and towards a better life in North America. The film's first 30-45 minutes could easily be labeled a tad slow, and one could easily argue that Lee could have edited a scene or two out. Yet, again, as my memories intensified in the days after I first viewed Life of Pi, each of these scenes felt necessary and relevant.

The actual shipwreck that leaves Pi abandoned is absolutely astounding, easily one of the most impressive such scenes captured on film and definitely one of the best underwater realizations of 3-D technology. Once the seas finally calm, Pi is left with only a zebra, a hyena, a chimp and, eventually, the Bengal tiger. It isn't long before nature has taken its course and Pi is left to fight for his life with a Bengal tiger by his side.

To describe Life of Pi in too much detail feels unjust. If you've long fancied yourself a fan of Ang Lee films, then you will unquestionably find yourself enchanted by Life of Pi. Even if Ang Lee films have never particularly been your thing, there's still a good chance you'll find much to enjoy about the film.

As the 16-year-old Pi, Suraj Sharma gives a performance that exudes both boyish charm and a soulful desperation. It would be almost impossible to watch Life of Pi and Sharma without at some point thinking about Tom Hanks and Cast Away, but it isn't long before you've set aside any thought of Wilson and are completely in awe of Life of Pi. Adil Hussain also shines as Pi's father, while Tabu makes a tremendous appearance as his mother. There seems to have been much made about Gerard Depardieu's appearance in the film, however, it's a brief and mostly irrelevant appearance.

Easily one of the most emotionally satisfying films to be released in 3-D, Life of Pi may not leave you in awe as you find yourself leaving the theater but it's the kind of film that will linger in your heart and mind for days afterward. While the film may fall a bit short in the race for the major awards, Life of Pi should easily find itself possessing a few Oscar nominations in a good majority of the technical areas.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
    The Official Rating Guideline
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