(*homocinematically inclined)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Tiger By the Tale

If you were captivated by the film and novel The Black Stallion, you will fall in love with the gorgeously-shot Life of Pi. Ang Lee’s adaptation of the 2001 best-seller makes the best use of 3-D you will see this year as he tells the story of a teenager who survives an unbelievable 227 day ordeal at sea.

Living happily in India, Pi (which is short for piscine, the French word for pool) is upset to learn that his parents plan to sell the zoo that they own and move the family to Canada to escape political unrest. Along with most of the animals, Pi and his family board a Japanese freighter for their trip across the Pacific. Unfortunately, a terrible storm capsizes the ship and only Pi escapes onto a lifeboat with an injured zebra who jumped in as the boat launched. Pi then discovers a spotted hyena hiding under the boat’s cover, followed by a beloved orangutan who floats up on a raft of bananas. His last unexpected guest is the ferocious tiger humorously named Richard Parker, who leaps onto the already crowded lifeboat. As the sea’s fury continues, nature’s fury unfolds on the boat, leaving Pi with life-or-death decisions to make in order to survive.

Pi and the tiger form an uneasy truce as the need for food and fresh water becomes more and more serious. Amazing sights and events happen, like a phosphorescent sea of jellyfish that light up the water one evening, or the mysterious island Pi discovers that holds a deadly secret. Lee’s storytelling and visual genius makes Life of Pi the most beautiful film of the year with a haunting story that will appeal to most ages. The animal violence may be too harsh for younger kids and the long time at sea may tire them, but otherwise the film is perfect for everyone.

It is no spoiler to say that Pi survives his adventure at sea, since the story is told in flashback by Irrfan Khan from The Namesake to an interested writer. Khan’s epilogue on the story creates questions about what really happened, but the film concludes with a moving scene that caps the tale beautifully.

Life of Pi is a movie you have to see on the big screen, and you will be blown away.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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