Review: Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” is visceral and visually impressive

Ryan Morris

Editor’s note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Yann Martel’s novel “Life of Pi” has taken nine years and four changes of directors before it finally saw its film adaptation come to life, mostly due to the technical challenges implicit in portraying the epic narrative of a teenage boy named Pi stranded in a lifeboat with an adult Bengal tinger.

Ang Lee was ultimately chosen to helm the project, and it’s his accomplished direction and choice to release the film in 3D that make it a resounding success.

For technicality alone, “Life of Pi” deserves every accolade, setting a new standard for the cinematic 3D experience.

Thanks to the rich, imaginative story, Lee presents one stunning image after another as the film moves into its middle third. From phosphorescent plankton to flying fish to an island inhabited by hundreds of meerkats, the artful 3D places you right in the middle instead of relying on cheap gimmickry.

Richard Parker, Pi’s tiger companion, is easily one of the most realistic CGI animals to ever inhabit a screen. He is a dynamic creation that changes over the course of the movie much like Pi does.

However, all these technical achievements would be for naught if the film didn’t communicate the emotional and spiritual heart of Martel’s book.

Thankfully, “Life of Pi” mostly succeeds in this respect. Like the novel, the screenplay is a frame narrative with an adult Pi telling his story to an author.

Despite its PG rating, “Life of Pi” is no simple survival tale with a moral of perseverance. It’s a story about telling stories, about faith and believing in infinite possibilities, and about the power of fiction to convey deep truths.

Bringing this philosophy to the screen is no easy task, and Lee does a fine job, relying mostly on visual grandeur and Sharma’s performance to emotionally anchor the story.

Martel’s masterful twist ending is also preserved and executed well, letting the film’s themes resonate with the audience long after they’ve left the theatre.

“Life of Pi” stumbles only in its opening, as the exposition is a little fast paced. For the sake of brevity, Pi’s adherence to three separate religions is skimmed over and his passionate defense of zoos present in the book is almost entirely omitted, though given the faithfulness to the source that the rest of this movie exhibits, this is a minor complaint.

Overall, “Life of Pi” is an immensely enjoyable experience. The film breaks new ground in 3D filmmaking and cinematography at the same time that it provides a powerful, deceptively complex adaptation of Martel’s moral fable.

Rating: Three and a half out of four stars.

Story: COLIN MOORE, Intern A&E Reporter