Movie Review ~ The Life of Pi

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor … a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irffan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Adil Hussain, Rafe Spall

Director: Ang Lee

Rated: PG

Running Length: 127 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8.5/10)

Review:  When I first heard about the film I couldn’t get my head around how a movie would be fashioned around the scenario of a boy and a tiger stranded on the same lifeboat.  Could a movie that has large passages of time without dialogue and that is heavily dependent on visual effects really be a satisfying experience at the end of the day?  The answer, I was to learn, was an unqualified “yes”.

It’s been a few weeks now since I saw The Life of Pi yet it’s a film that has lingered long in my mind even after the credits ended.  What we have here is surely one of the most visually stunning films released in the last several years yet one that could have easily segued into monotony with its heavy, tricky plot devices.  Instead, director Lee has held the reins comfortably slack enough to allow the story to spring forth off the screen to create a dazzling display of technology, stirring imagery, and an overall moving experience.

In adapting the popular but divisive book by Yann Martel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter David Magee has done right by the characters Martel put to page and expounded on the impact the life-threatening situation that faces young Pi Patel as he and his family travel from India to the US.  After a frightening to watch sea disaster (think Titanic meets Flight), Pi is left to fend for himself as he battles the elements and a Bengal tiger that he shares his small lifeboat with. 

Over hundreds of days, we see an understanding develop between headstrong Pi and the tiger known as Richard Parker.  Through truly astonishing CGI work, the large cat is created from the ground up with very few shots actually containing a flesh and blood beast.  The tiger effect is outstanding and rarely gives off the vibe of computer assistance, don’t be surprised if you forget that newcomer Sharma was acting opposite thin air. 

Really a memory piece, the story is told from the perspective of the adult Pi (Khan in a deeply felt performance) as he relates his amazing adventure to a journalist (Spall from Prometheus – interesting to note that Spall took over the role from Tobey Maguire who was cast, filmed his scenes, but was replaced by Lee so to not distract from the action in the past).  This set-up gives you information on the outcome of the story so some of the suspense is lost…until the ending that could be as troublesome for viewers as it was for the readers.

Without giving any sort of spoilers away, the final ten/fifteen minutes of the film may change your opinion of the movie up until that point.  I, for one, found myself coming down off my high I had for the previous two hours and feeling a bit despondent on the direction I thought things were going.  Rest assured that the movie counters nicely and lets you make up your own mind about certain ideas and possibilities these late in the game questions raise.

If you’re one of the weary people that refuses to shell out the extra dough to see a movie in 3D, pay attention to what I’m going to say: this is the one movie you’ll be glad you paid extra for.  Like Avatar and Hugo, the 3D technology is not used to throw stuff out at the audience but to give a greater depth to the scenery, drawing you further into the story.  It’s one of the most immersive uses of 3D ever in film from the hypnotic sights of India to the gorgeous and lonely nighttime vistas Pi sees during his time at sea. 

One of the more interesting and non-genre specific directors working today, Lee has created another film that looks deep within itself to present an inner truth that speaks to all of us.  The movie is about faith – faith in a higher power, faith in one’s self, faith that destiny and survival are what you make of it.  I was greatly moved by the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker and appropriately rallied for them along the way.  Do yourself a favor and make this the next film you see in theaters, it’s not to be missed and not to be forgotten.

The Silver Bullet ~ Warm Bodies

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Synopsis: After a zombie becomes involved with the girlfriend of one of his victims, their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

Release Date:  February 1, 2013

Thoughts: The resurgence of the zombie craze has inspired some interesting projects.  The gigantic popularity of TV’s The Walking Dead has given cable television another hit and 2013’s World War Z is hoping for summer blockbuster status.  Throwing the genre a bit on its ear, Warm Bodies looks like any other troubled teen romance…until you consider that one of the teens is a member of the undead.  What’s interesting about this film is the appearance that everyone is in on the joke-y nature of the premise…which could spell a lot of fun for audiences.  An appealing cast and promising director (Jonathan Levine did great work with 2011’s 50/50) are added bonuses.