Review - Life of Pi (3D)

Life of Pi (2012), PG, 127 minutes - I got a pleasant surprise today when I realized that one of this year's most nominated Oscar films wasn't just still showing in my area, but was still playing in 3D.  I haven't seen a movie in 3D in almost two years, but I had heard such good things about the use of 3D in Life of Pi that I was intrigued.  Everything I had heard was correct.  Life of Pi is a visually gorgeous film, and in my (somewhat limited) opinion probably has the best looking 3D effects since Avatar.

The film is narrated by Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) as he tells a writer (Rafe Spall) about his experiences surviving a disastrous shipwreck at sea in which he lost his entire family.  His story of survival is interwoven with elements of three different religions that he learned about and drew from during his youth and tells of his efforts in sharing a lifeboat with the only other survivor: a Bengal tiger that was being transported from Pi's father's zoo in India to their final destination in Canada.

The teenage Pi that survives the shipwreck is played by Suraj Sharma, who gives an excellent performance, especially when considering that he is the only human for the majority of his screen time.  Even when he was interacting with animals and the elements, you know that he was acting alone as the majority of them were digitally added effects.  That being said, the visuals on this film are absolutely amazing.  The 3D is handled extremely well, adding visible depth to even the most simple of shots (i.e. Pi and the writer talking while sitting around a table).  Director Ang Lee's foray into 3D is quite successful.  He uses the 3D to augment his shots.  Everything looks like it belongs. There are no cheesy 'we're throwing something directly at the camera just to make use of the 3D' effects.  He really immerses us in Pi's world.  It is this use of 3D that will most likely nab Life of Pi at least a couple of the eleven Oscars that it was nominated for this year.  In my opinion, it has to be the front runner in the Visual Effects category.

Life of Pi is based on the novel by Yann Martel, that from what I've read here on the web, has been called 'unfilmable'.  I have not read the book so I don't have a basis of comparison for that belief, but if this film is the result of an 'unfilmable' story, then more things in this world need to be deemed as such.  Life of Pi is well told, looks gorgeous, and provides the viewer with an interesting point of view.  It's great in that it tells a tale and you are able to take from it however much or little as you want.  When trailers first hit for this film, I wasn't wicked excited for it, but the Oscar talk and the fact that it was still screening here in the 'noke pulled me in.  And I am glad that I was able to see to see it in theaters.  Seeing it in standard 2D or in 3D probably doesn't make as much of difference as seeing it on the big screen as opposed to your tv at home.  The visuals will be stunning either way but I think the scope of the story may suffer on a smaller screen.  It's been out for a good while (it was released back in November), but may still be lingering thanks to push from its Oscar nominations, so if you have a chance check it out while you still can.

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