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Do bananas float? Amongst the many questions that Yann Martel posed in his 2001 novel 'Life Of Pi' this is probably the only one that has an answer that can be proved or disproved. Through the experiences of the titular character, Pi, Martel forced the reader to ponder the nature of humanity, the balance between instinct and savagery in ongoing survival, and the way that our beliefs color what we perceive as truth. 11 years later, director Ang Lee has seamlessly blended visual beauty and brutality together to ask Martel's questions once again.

The son of a zoo owner, Pi (Suraj Sharma) is an Indian teen fascinated by the stories that various religions are built upon. His seemingly idyllic life is wrenched away from him when his father is forced to sell the zoo and move the family (and animals) to Canada. During the journey, the ship they are traveling on is struck by a violent storm and, for unexplained reasons, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, leaving Pi on a life raft with only Richard Parker, a large Bengal tiger, for company. In order to survive, Pi has to balance his faith and belief systems with the very immediate problem of death by tiger or starvation.

Just as he did for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee utilizes hyper-real vibrancy in the colors of the movie to create a world which stirs feelings of fantasy and excitement. The early parts of the movie which take place in Pondicherry are reminiscent of the short lived TV series Pushing Daisies, but better straddle the fine line between reality and twee, never crossing too far into the latter. These colors enhance the 3-D experience, dazzling the senses and making the movie the best argument for 3-D cinema so far.

Sharma delivers a credible performance-believably expressing wonderment at the beauty and power of nature, anger about seeming betrayal by his gods, and even an unnerving zealotry that the rest of us find so frustrating about the religious. However, his performance is overshadowed by the breathtaking special effects. Lee manages to showcase both the fierceness and unparalleled beauty of nature through a soundstage and computers. Although the colors may be fantastical, they are never unbelievable, and viewers will never question whether they are really looking at a tiger (spoilers: for the most part, they aren't).

The triumph of the movie is not merely bringing one of the best novels of the modern era to the big screen; it is its ability to do this while constantly, and unabashedly, asking the questions that the source material presents, without ever preaching or otherwise putting obstacles in the way of a brilliant story. It probably won't make you believe in God the way that Pi would like, but it may make you realize what is truth actually is – it’s whatever you want to be.


 


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