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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Life of Pi - Review (2012)

I will admit, when I first heard of this film, I had little interest in it.  I could not see them keeping a film about a kid (Suraj Sharma) lost at sea on a boat interesting for more than half an hour or so.  Through some great old fashioned story telling they do, without a moment of boredom.  The boat scenes show moments of real emotion, regret, braveness, creativity, fear, doubt and tenderness.  We are not given a godlike hero with all the answers, we learn as he learns, we explore as he explores.

If you do not know, Life of Pi, tells the story of Pi as narrated by himself as an adult (Irfan Khan.)  It consists of two major parts, Pi’s life as a child in India and his 227 days on a boat with a Bengal tiger.

When it is working the film feels like sitting down with a master storyteller that is spinning a web of wonder while the listeners envision in their head the images of what he is saying.  Instead of making our minds provide the imagery, Ang Lee and company in a very picturesque fashion breaths life into each chapter of this tale.  The result is a beautifully shot film seamlessly combines old fashioned storytelling and the latest technology to bring the words of the novel to life.  Unlike so many films that try their hand a 3d the use here does not come across as a gimmick, but rather than a medium to craft a story.  Missing are the scenes that only exist to display the technical capabilities or use exaggerated 3D conventions to wow the audience.  The 3D is finally used solely to enhance the storytelling.   

The film is hampered down by the recurring scenes of the adult Pi as he tells his story to an author there to turn his tale into a book.  The scenes do provide a breather from the incredible scenes on the boat, but little else.  Pi has a great deal to say about spirituality that is supposed to tie together all of what we are seeing, it partially succeeds.  At the same time comes across as preachy like a friend that enjoys the smokeable offerings of the world (recently legalized in Colorado) a little too much and temporarily thinks everything he has to say is deep and important.  Combine that with the blank staring writer (Rafe Spall) that seems to serve little to no purpose and all the work put into telling a grand and beautiful fable loses a little bit of its luster.

8 out of 10

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