Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ is magical and best seen in 3D

Pi (Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger known as Richard Parker are stranded together on lifeboats in 'Life of Pi'
Pi (Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger known as Richard Parker are stranded together on lifeboats in ‘Life of Pi’

Life of Pi is a fascinating tale of faith and survival told in flashback.  Rafe Spall plays the writer who goes to visit “Pi Patel” (Irrfan Khan) whose full name is Piscine Molitor Patel.  The story behind his name and how he manages to get others to refer to him as Pi are best experienced by viewing the film.

The writer is there because he’s been told that Pi (who is portrayed by three other actors in the film at various stages of his life; the main one being Suraj Sharma, who portrays him in his teenage years) has a story to tell that will make the writer believe in God.  So Pi tells him the story.

It begins with his early life with his father, his mother and his older brother. They live in a lush part of India where the family operates a zoo.  He is born a Hindu, but by the time he becomes a teen he has developed beliefs in Christianity and Islam, and seems to be practicing all three faiths.  He’s also fallen in love with “Anandi” (Shravanthi Sainath) and suddenly his father announces that the family is moving to Canada.  They will be taking all of the animals with them, to be sold there and the money from the sale will allow them to start a new life.

Ang Lee fills 'Life of Pi' with stunning visual and vibrant color
Ang Lee fills ‘Life of Pi’ with stunning visual and vibrant color

They board a Japanese cargo ship, and after some difficulties (including a cook played by Gerard Depardieu who won’t make them vegetarian meals), they wind up getting caught in a storm.  Things go bad and the boat sinks. Pi is separated from his family and ends up in a lifeboat with a tiger by the name of Richard Parker.  Pi constructs a makeshift raft to stay at a safe distance from the tiger, and seeks to keep both of them alive.

Life of Pi is simply magnificent.  Director Ang Lee makes the most of the adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel by screenwriter David Magee, particularly in the images that leap off the screen when viewed in 3D.  Even knowing that Pi lives, it’s nearly impossible not to marvel at his continued survival as he’s confronted by all he faces during a journey that seems to never end.  Sharma is very, very good in his lead performance.  If you can, see it in 3D to get the most from this magical film.

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