This movie is amazing. Amazing.
Based on the bestselling, Booker-Prize winning novel by Yann Martel, Ang Lee's gorgeous film tells the story of a teen boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger after his ship sinks, killing his entire family and most of their menagerie of zoo animals. The family was moving from India to Canada, zoo owners hoping to sell their animals and start a new life. What happens next is an adventure you'll never forget.
If you've read the book, rest assured that the movie is very faithful to the book. If you haven't, I would urge you to see this movie in incredible 3D while it's in theaters, and then get to the book when you get a chance (but do get to it).
So, where do I begin? Lee makes great use of 3D, including the stunning opening credits sequence and the horrific sinking of the ship. Another reviewer mentioned Titanic (1997), as in this sequence was the best ship-sinking on film since that memorable film. It's breathtaking and horrific. Then we settle in with Pi and the tiger Richard Parker for a long and trying voyage, replete with the suffering and beauty of the book. Lee creates some truly magnificent visual passages- a sea alight with jellyfish, a whale breaching, and one scene showing the sky indistinguishable from the water and the small boat looking as if suspended between the two. Suraj Sharma is great as Pi; for long stretches of the film he's the only person on screen but it always felt full. There was too much tension between him and the tiger, not to mention the ocean itself, to admit more characters.
The only thing I could have done without was the awkward and redundant framing device of having an older Pi tell his story to a Canadian writer. It just didn't need to be there, and distracted from the flow of story. I don't need to hear someone talking about telling the story. Just tell the story. I've said it before and I'll say it again; we don't need to have narratives filtered through the eyes of some Caucasian person in order to understand them. It's just not necessary. Martel didn't think it was; I don't understand why Lee made a different choice.
If you can ignore the frame, or if you're not bothered by it, you're in for a treat when you go to the movies starting November 21. There were tears and applause at the end of this film; it was that good. I can't wait to go see it again!
A word about the rating: the film is rated PG but I would not advise taking kids to see it. It doesn't have anything I would call adult content per se (there is violence among animals) but the kids present at the screening I attended were audibly unhappy. They were probably also confused. It's not a children's movie. Its themes are sophisticated and the narrative is mostly about death and loss. So just keep that in mind.
Rating: RUSH (the movie equivalent of BUY)
FTC Disclosure: I attended a free screening of the film as a professional courtesy.