Ang Lee’s Life of Pi chronicles the exploits of a teenage boy from India who becomes trapped on a lifeboat with a fully grown tiger. Based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel of the same name, the story covers themes such as survival, man’s struggle with nature, the meaning of happiness, and even the role of spirituality. But the real reason I loved this film has little to do with the story. Don’t get me wrong, the story is amazingly original and fascinating, but what makes this movie so incredible is the effects.
Before writing this review I asked myself, would I have loved this movie as much if I hadn’t seen it in 3D? The answer is no. Far from other 3D movies that (in my opinion) use the effect gratuitiously, Ang Lee uses 3D to bring the story to life, making it feel more real, more tangible. The film immersed me in a way that Avatar never could, because in contrast to that blockbuster, the 3D in Life of Pi is so subtle that it becomes inclusive. I felt like I was sitting in someone’s kitchen listening to them tell their life story; I was sitting in a classroom in Pondicherry; I was swimming in a public pool in Paris; I was trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger.
That’s not to say that the 3D is the only thing fantastic about this movie. The performace by Suraj Sharma is nothing short of amazing, especially considering the fact that this is his first movie. He is extremely likable and relatable while also being highly unusual, which is important since he carries the majority of the movie on his shoulders. His strength comes in part from his character’s naivete, which ends up being the biggest crutch in his fight for survival. Irrfan Khan, who plays Pi as an adult, also gives a great performance and a poignant, modest, and wise professor, living an absurdly normal life.
I’m trying not to give away anything major, but I can say that the depictions of wild animals are beautifully, artfully, and honestly done. It enhances the feeling that Pi was trapped in an extremely gorgeous, extremely dangerous world for 227 days. And (again) the magic of 3D helps to intensify the feeling of helplessness without ever making the audience feel hopeless.
In other words, if you want to see Life of Pi, then you should most definitely spend the extra money for the dorky glasses at the move theater. This is one of the few cases where the 3D will actually be worth it.