Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Life of Pi’ Review: A Visionary Masterpiece

There are several 3D films that have come out this year, where the 3D doesn’t necessarily add anything to the story. For example, “Wreck-It Ralph” is one of the most original animated films we’ve seen in years and offers some of the year’s best voice performances, but the 3D doesn’t do anything for the film.

This is not the case with director Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.” In fact, you should not see the film unless you are seeing it in 3D, because it’s a necessary character to the story. This is the best 3D film of 2012 and the visuals are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen all year. We will certainly see the technical aspects of this film up for Academy Awards come February.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Yann Martel, “Life of Pi” tells the story of a young Indian man (Suraj Sharma), who was raised by zookeepers. When his father (Adil Hussain) wants to relocate the family business to Canada, Pi has several reservations. Despite his protesting, Pi, his father, mother and brother board a ship along with all their animals and head for Canada.

During the trip, a rough storm picks up at sea, sinking the giant ship along with everyone on board, but Pi. Pi, who luckily survived the storm, finds himself on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger.

After cast away at sea for what seems like months, struggling to survive, Pi and the tiger, which he named Richard Parker, form an unexpected connection. Pi’s elder self (Irfan Khan), narrates the memory of his struggle at sea and of his relationship with the Bengal tiger.

Ang Lee’s (“Brokeback Mountain”) visionary work in “Pi” is something to behold. “Pi” is truly a cinematic event that needs to be experienced this year, just for the 3D alone. The most spectacular visuals are during the actual sinking of the ship and when Pi is cast away at sea. The ocean and sea life look so vibrant and beautiful in 3D.

Newcomer Suraj Sharma gives one of the best performances of the year as the desperate, yet hopeful Pi. I loved watching the story through his eyes and his performance is so strong, you are experiencing this crazy journey through his eyes.

Where “Life of Pi” lost me is the back and forth narrative between the elder Pi (Khan) and the younger Pi (Sharma). It wasn’t necessary to keep going back to Sharma and when we did go back to the “present world” of Pi, it feels off.

Even if you haven’t read the book, “Life of Pi” is still enjoyable and moving, emotional and funny. The visuals and CGI of the Tiger make the movie what it is.

Ang Lee proves he’s still a richly talented director and Suraj Sharma gives one of the most memorable performances of the year.

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