on November 15, 2012
Wow, this has been an exciting fall for literary adaptations! I read Yann Martel's Life of Pi a decade ago and thought it was fantastic storytelling. I cheered when it won the Man Booker Prize. So, I was quite excited to attend an advance screening recently with several members of my book group. I remembered the novel quite well in broad strokes, but not the fine detail. I didn't refresh my memory before watching the film, but was curious enough to reread Life of Pi in its entirety before writing this review. The film is very true to the novel in spirit and tone, but there are small changes, additions (generally positive), and elisions (some noteworthy).
The film opens similarly to the novel. The idea is the same, but the execution is slightly different. Different mediums require different storytelling tools. For instance, I believe most film-goers will readily recognize The Writer (portrayed by actor Rafe Spall, who replaced a distractingly famous Toby Maguire) as a stand-in for author Martel. In the novel, it is Martel himself, in direct address to readers, who fulfills this role, effectively blurring the line between fact and fiction. It is established that this story is being related to The Writer by an older Pi. From there, readers are introduced to a young Piscine Molitor Patel and the world he inhabits. It's a charmed childhood, being raised at the Pondicherry Zoo amongst a loving family and exotic animals--an Indian "We Bought a Zoo." These scenes are as lush and colorful as any Bollywood musical.
I've discussed this novel with other readers countless times over the years. It's beloved by many, but truly hated by a vocal minority. I've never understood the vitriol, personally. Martel writes beautifully and accessibly. His story is fast-paced and yet deeply rooted in character. And it explores the boundless subject of faith through an extraordinary tale--a "story to make you believe in God." But one complaint I've heard from readers is frustration over (or lack of interest in) Pi's religious explorations early in the novel. The young man is a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. Martel never belabored the point, but those readers will be gratified to see that director Ang Lee has streamlined the beginning of the tale to move more swiftly to the meat of the story.
And that comes about when Pi's family packs up their lives, their animals, and moves the whole kit and caboodle to Canada by ship. Well, that's the plan. Something goes wrong in rough seas outside of Manila. The ship goes down in a haunting scene, and now the stage is set. Sixteen-year-old Pi is shipwrecked in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a 450-pound adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. It's survival of the fittest on the high seas, and things get Darwinian fast. Soon enough, it's Pi and Richard Parker in it together.
When I first heard the premise of this novel, somehow I thought Richard Parker would be some kind of cute, anthropomorphized tiger, and oversized puddy tat. He was not. He was a terrifying predator, and he stayed a terrifying predator, throughout Pi's ordeal. This was much the same in the movie (although not quite to the degree as in the novel, a change commented upon by Martel in the Hollywood Reporter). Richard Parker was scary in the book, but he was terrifying on the screen. I flinched as he snarled and lunged in 3D.
From here, both novel and film take on an episodic or picaresque quality. The film is delightfully dream-like from its opening frames. (An early scene of the swimming pool from which Pi derives his name enchanted me!) But as the days at sea pass, and the ribs of both animals become plainly visible, the film shifts from dream-like to hallucinatory. Episodes and encounters become increasingly extraordinary. Sitting in the audience, I could clearly discern who had read the novel and who had not by the gasps and exclamations. (Among my friends, the film was enjoyed equally by those who had read the book and those who had not.)
Yes, there are episodes that are missing from the film, one of which is quite notable. Fans may miss it. And, yet, I can understand the choices made. Cuts were judicious. As noted earlier there are a few small shifts and changes. But this is a very faithful adaptation of Martel's novel, and I suspect it will please most fans of the original. What is lost is more than made up for by how Ang Lee has brought Martel's fantastic vision to life.
The cinematography and design of this film is exquisitely beautiful. I'm not a huge fan of 3D technology, but once in a while it seems to really augment a film. Such is the case here--all the better to experience a small boat on the vast ocean. And while we're on the subject of technology, the CGI work on the tiger is seamless. None of us could detect where the real tiger ended and the computer-generated beast began. I have heard that young Suraj Sharma never once filmed with the live animal. For safety, their scenes were filmed separately. And I don't know how much footage was of a real cat. All I can say is that the illusion is extraordinarily believable. That a first-time actor could give such a convincing performance playing opposite an imaginary tiger is doubly impressive. The success of the film lies firmly on Sharma's moving portrayal of 16-year-old Pi, but the supporting performances were equally strong. It was Spall's response to Pi's story at the end of the film that actually gave me chills.
I've been circumspect about revealing specifics of the plot. I'll leave all the surprises of Pi's voyage intact for those new to the tale. And readers of the novel can see for themselves what made the cut. About the ending... Those who have read the novel know what to expect. Now film-goers can join the debate we've been having for the past decade. In the end, it truly is all about faith. Which story do you prefer?
on February 22, 2013
Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" is a masterpiece with some of the most beautiful and unforgettable images ever displayed on film. Not only did it give me an experience of the wonder in being alive while moving me to tears, but its story also encompassed a human life from childhood to mature age while dealing with pain and guilt that are part of the human experience.
Ang Lee isn't thought of as an Asian auteur in the class of Wong Kar-wai, Zhang Yimou or Lee Chang-dong. He's actually more of a commercial director than a personal artist, but what he does in transferring the "Life of Pi" from novel to screen is miraculous. Perhaps no director has ever captured the beauty and fear of the power of life, and when you look deep into the eyes of the tiger "Richard Parker", you see what Marlowe saw in Kurtz's eyes in Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness": a power so vast it dwarfs you with an awareness of your mortality, showing you your insignificance beside the powers of all life. What Ang Lee does here in this film will, I believe, remain his tour-de-force, and is a work of art I will come to many times in the future.
The acting is wonderful, primarily Irrfan Khan, one of India's greatest actors who plays the adult Pi. Khan provides an entire acting course just in the way he uses his face, displaying a smile in the film's climax that rivals the Mona Lisa's in its ambiguity. You see the world of pain, guilt, joy and sadness in his delicate expression.
The film is supremely spiritual in every frame, yet, if one is paying attention, it winds up as somewhat of a Trojan Horse in what it ultimate reveals about religion. I'm trying hard not to provide a spoiler here, but there are five words spoken by the adult Pi at the end of the film that viewers seem to miss that spell it out. But moving away from its theme, no film I have ever seen in my life comes close to "Life of Pi" in relating the sheer force of nature (making you experience the beauty and terror in the soul of a tiger) and the cosmic beauty of our world, both inner and outer. Using 3-D more brilliantly (and essentially) than any film to date, this film burned into my mind incredible visual sights impossible to find anywhere else, showing me beauty I will remember the rest of my life.
Highly recommended, and one that truly deserves to be seen in 3-D.
on December 12, 2012
This may be the hardest movie review I've ever written, somehow words don't
express it quite right ...
To begin, I saw Life of Pi in 3-D. A week later I went back and saw it again,
because I don't foresee having another chance. I expect the color and detail
will remain gorgeous in 2-D, and I definitely intend to buy the disc.
However the 3-D in this movie is spectacular. The tiger, Richard Parker, is
at the top of the list, but in fact the entire movie benefits tremendously
from 3-D. If you liked Avatar, you probably liked the marvelous animals.
And I'm sure in some scenes, Richard Parker is CGI'd to some extent. But
Life of Pi has a real earthly animal to work with, and you can argue there
is no animal on earth more beautiful or fierce than a tiger. That's part
of the genius of this movie, and I'm sure one reason James Cameron liked
it so much.
That brings me to another point about this movie, its suitability for kids.
Hopefully by now you understand the tiger is not a cuddly pet. Its very much
a wild animal, just like you can see in nature videos. Except in this movie
the tiger is a lot closer. He wants to eat Pi. Pi can't always see the tiger.
The audience knows the tiger is going to try something, but that just makes it
all the more nerve-wracking. Or exciting, depending on the person watching.
This movie made me jump several times, and I was often clutching the arms of
my chair. Its pretty intense in places. More so the second time I saw it.
I kid you not.
"Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the darkness of the night"
- William Blake
"Tell me what you see"
Regarding the story, I will say the movie starts out to establish what kind
of a kid Pi was when he was growing up in India. This helps us know Pi as a
multi-dimensional character. But the beauty of this part of the movie is
the kind you can see every day, not the visionary beauty that comes later.
Maybe it takes more effort to see it, because its a little too much like our
own lives when we were kids. Growing up can seem mundane. But sometimes
it can also be dangerous. Or heartbreaking.
Once the movie shifts to the ocean, its very easy to believe that now we
have our arms around the story. But Life of Pi is one of those movies where
we don't really know the story at all, until the last word of dialog has
been spoken. There's more than one story here, and most of what makes you
think, after its over, comes at the very end. You have to pay attention to
pick it all up. On disc, you may want to re-play a few seconds at the end
of the movie.
Its worth it. If you like to think about a movie, if you have a vivid memory
for beauty, then Life of Pi is one of the easiest movies to recommend. Its the
second masterpiece of 2012.
on November 19, 2012
One might watch the trailer and groan at the prospect of another "The Black Stallion," but I have good news: this is not the same. Yes, both involve a ship sinking with one human survivor, and both have the survivor interact with animals while waiting for rescue. There is a key difference, though, that expands drastically with the final minutes of the film. In "The Black Stallion," the animal is a horse, something humans communicate with around the world. In Life of Pi, the tiger gives us something completely different. A natural enemy, very willing to devour. I'll get to the important meaning later.
As is evident from the dramatic trailer, the cinematography is overwhelmingly beautiful. In all honesty, you don't see the half of it in the trailer. While at first, it didn't seem likely to work in 3D, I've put that view aside. It's the best live-action 3D I've ever seen! One of the best scenes (for the full emotional effect), is seeing the ship go down as if you were right there. In fact, more than one scene were so effective in this way that I was physically breathless. A few times during the film, Pi encounters rough storms, and this is where another beauty comes through. The camera captures the movement of Pi and his boat so well, it boggles me. While other movies have moved from cut to cut in moments, giving the impression of a storm, these cuts last much longer and show a lot more. It's as if filmed on location, with no misguiding.
Something you should know before you watch is that Life of Pi breaks into the topic of religion quite a bit at the beginning. Pi follows several religions. First, Hindu, then Catholicism, and Muslim, all at once. After the incident, it doesn't come up much, apart from a few overtones, but it's important to be aware going in.
This is a film for slightly older audiences (13+) for the reasons of the ship's intense sinking, and for the complicated concepts of the film.
To warn you, this last paragraph is a bit *SPOILER* oriented. Near the end of the movie, Pi tells another story, showing what the tiger represents. Suffice it to say that there is more meaning to this than surviving on an island with a horse and winning a race with him later on. I won't spoil any more, though.
In conclusion, this is a beautiful movie about survival and perseverance, in the midst of harsh, beautiful nature.
on February 24, 2013
I want to write this while it's fresh - while the nerve endings in my body are still alive, the tears just drying in my eyes and my heart so full it almost hurts. I just saw 'Life of Pi', my favorite film so far this year and in my Top 10 Films of all time. From the opening credits I knew it was going to be something special ... but I can't remember ever having seen a film that touched me this deeply on the subject of faith. Visually stunning, the film - on the surface a story about a shipwrecked young man trapped alone on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger - reaches out with such a powerful message of faith and courage and devotion, it left me shaken and weak and realizing just how meaningless much of what we humans worry about really is. Ang Lee deserves the Oscar, Suraj Sharma should have been nominated for playing Pi, and this is one I will be owning the nano-second it comes out on DVD. Just wish my brain didn't feel so scrambled, so I could write a more worthy review of this incredibly beautiful piece of art.
on December 28, 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0
Is 'Life of Pi' meant as a story of great spiritual uplift--or a different story altogether--something more morose and sinister? Director Ang Lee, proffers up a twist ending where the film's protagonist, the young Pi Patel, has his amazing tale of survival called into question and replaced by an equally fantastic tale, albeit far less spiritually uplifting, than the first.
The film begins with a now grown Patel, residing in Canada and working as a professor. Patel's relates his life to an aspiring writer in three parts: 1) his childhood and adolescence with his family in India; 2) his life as a castaway in a lifeboat with the tiger, 'Richard Parker'; and 3) the climax of his survivor story which includes an alternative story to the one he's just related. Unfortunately, Lee must rely on a narrator, the elder Patel, to tell a good part of the story. This is off-putting (particularly during the denouement), since the stodgy conversations between the professor and the writer, can't hold a candle to the magnificent visual scenes established with the younger Pi (played by brilliant newcomer, Suraj Sharma) as he fights for survival on the high seas.
The first third of the 'Life of Pi' is slow-moving. Pi's upbringing is quite unusual in one respect: his father owns a zoo. Otherwise Pi is presented as a sensitive but quirky kid who evinces a spiritual side, even at an early age. Pi's spirituality comes into play later, when his alternative story, presents him in a decidedly less pacifistic light.
Perhaps the most significant scene in the first third of the movie is when Pi's father forces him to watch Richard Parker devour a goat. Pi's 'loss of innocence' foreshadows his ultimate test, when he later comes face to face with Richard Parker in the boat. How does the tiger manage to pull the goat into his side of the cell? The apparent unrealistic and perplexing scene may suggest, on the other hand, that Patel's story is either whole or part fantasy.
The meat and potatoes of the 'Life of Pi' is the young man's incredible story of survival after his parents are killed, during the sinking of the Japanese freighter. 'Life of Pi' fascinates, when we see how Pi manages to cope with a tiger in his lifeboat. Before Richard Parker becomes the center of Pi's attention, two other animals, a zebra and orangutan are killed by an hyena, who in turn is killed by Richard Parker. The animals' demise takes on a symbolic meaning later on, when Pi proffers up the second story in the Third Act. The sudden disappearance of the three animals from the boat, once again suggests that perhaps Pi's story belongs in the realm of fantasy.
Ang Lee proves his mastery as a director of special effects, since most of the tiger sequences were created through the wizardry of computer generated images. From his inventiveness to creating a small raft of flotation devices to keep a safe distance from the tiger and the way in which he goes about finding food after a whale destroys his food stocks, the story of Pi and Richard Parker proves quite absorbing. The taming of the tiger is the high point of Pi's 'man versus nature' saga before the Second Act crisis.
The crisis occurs when Pi lands on the 'bionic' island. Again, the island appears to symbolize Pi's crisis in the alternative reality the elder Pi relates to the writer in the Third Act. Once Pi discovers that the island's water turns acidic at night and is devouring fish, as well as a tooth in a carnivorous plant, he concludes that he'll die if he remains on the island.
The elder Patel finally reveals that his castaway story might merely be a 'coping mechanism'. Patel reveals that he told Japanese investigators of the possibility that what 'might' have happened was that he ended up in a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg and a crew member who his father had a disagreeable encounter earlier on, before the freighter sunk. The crew member ends up killing the sailor and his mother after his mother puts him on a raft. Patel returns to kill the crew member. The fight with the crew member recalls the tooth he finds in the plant on the island. Leaving the island might be symbolic of his decision to leave the situation where he found himself observing how his mother was thrown to the sharks. And finally, when Richard Parker fails to turn back and acknowledge him, this jarring event symbolizes Pi's acceptance of a loss of innocence and the reality that Story #1 was a fantasy.
There are hints that Story #2 may have been worse than Pi initially lets on. Was Pi possibly guilty of cannibalism? It's interesting that there was an actual Richard Parker in the 19th century who was a victim of cannibalism after a shipwreck and the character's name also figures in an Edgar Allan Poe novel, again a victim of cannibalism at sea.
Ang Lee, as well as author Martel, have made it clear that they both prefer Pi's spiritually uplifting tale of survival to the downbeat one involving murder. The elder Patel makes his preference clear in the film itself. The second story appears to be thrown in to contrast it with the uplifting message of Story #1. Story #2 then perhaps becomes a cautionary tale--similar to the loss of innocence moment when Richard Parker kills the goat. Lee has no problem with such ambiguity as long as the feel good message is highlighted.
In the end, the Life of Pi 'main course' will be remembered for Pi's 'story #1' and Ang Lee's masterful visual presentation. The rest, including the lumbering narration, simplistic spiritual stance and ambiguous alternative ending, are the leftovers.
A 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel is the basis for "Life of Pi" and it has been called unfilmable. The movie has been in the works since 2003, but the nature of the film has caused many to think that it would never be possible. See, most of the film involves a boy in a lifeboat with an adult Bengal Tiger. The movie also involves many other challenging things to portray, including a massive shipwreck, an island of meerkats and a strong religious overtone that manages to be fair to all religions. Suraj Sharma plays Pi Patel, a boy becoming a man who challenges all conventional thinking as he leads his life. Curious about religion and religions, he prides himself in knowing not just one god, but all gods. Not to mention, despite its obvious carnivorous nature, he has faith that a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker has a soul and can be befriended.
"Life of Pi" has many levels and as visually stimulating as it is, it is also mentally stimulating and beautiful in its intent. I'm not completely sure it achieved all that it intended but the gist of its message comes across loud and clear. Life is a gift and the days ahead are not guaranteed. Faith is vital in living a rewarding life and in knowing how life is not only to be lived, but to be cherished for each and every moment. I'm pretty sure that was the gist.
Above all, "Life of Pi" is not just a well-filmed movie, but a gloriously well filmed film. The quality levels of the filming are unprecedented and its 3D makes all 3D that has been done prior look like the second and third-rate stuff that it is. The effects used to bring the tiger Richard Parker to life are awe-inspiring. Your eyes widen, as they should, when Parker strikes and when he nears. There has certainly never before been a movie that gives you the impression of what it would be like to be and live in the proximity of such a beast.
"Life of Pi" comes off a little heavy-handed at time and I have to admit that I assumed there would be more to it, but the amount there is to it is in the eye of the beholder. You can look at the movie and say that it wasn't about much, or you can look at the movie and say that it was about everything, because it is. The performances are outstanding, including the Tiger, and the film is without question, one of the best of 2012.
The movie adaptation of Yann Martel's Life of Pi is a sublime movie, and even my picky husband loved it. We watched it with our eight-year-old who also enjoyed the visual splendor of the movie. It is a great film because it combines the best of two worlds - excellent movie-making, thanks to Ang Lee's masterful direction, and a compelling storyline.
The cast is another revelation. I was happy to see some of my favorite South Asian Indie actors such as Irrfan Khan and Tabu in this production. Irrfan Khan has been in other productions such as The Namesake and Slumdog Millionaire.Khan plays the adult Pi who is visited by a novelist referred by Mama-ji, Pi's uncle. Mama-ji believes Pi's life story is worthy of being novelized and so begins the story, narrated by the adult Pi.
The child Pi is played by Ayush Tandon whose full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, opens him to incessant teasing by his fellow classmates. Nevertheless, Pi's natural intelligence and curiosity thrives and he is particularly interested in the idea of God - who or what is God, and where can God be found? There are some interesting, even comical scenes of the young Pi shown practicing the various religions he learns about - Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet instead of scolding him, his wise father cautions Pi, and advises him to always approach things by way of reason.
Suraj Sharma portrays the 16-year-old Pi who is shown to be still in search of answers pertaining to the fundamental questions in life. Pi's chance to "find God" comes when he is shipwrecked on a lifeboat together with an adult Bengal tiger. The question is: Is this reality or is it Pi's imagination working on overdrive?
The movie unfolds with such grace and beauty that it literally took my breath away. Questions of faith and survival under the most trying circumstances are explored with such depth and Lee's assured direction brings out the best in his cast, especially the young Suraj Sharma who is simply amazing in this film. His performance is raw and visceral, and some of the most compelling scenes in the film are in his interactions with the adult Bengal tiger. Though the tiger is part of CGI, Richard Parker (the tiger's name) was very real to me, and the chemistry between Pi and Richard Parker was very credible.
This is one of the most unique films I have watched in a long time and I love it for so many reasons - it brought the novel alive for me and exceeded my expectations, it showed me that good storytelling does not have to suffer in a film loaded with CGI, and that an unknown actor can still carry a movie!
on April 5, 2013
I'm going to focus my review mainly on the 3D aspect of this Blu-Ray, and about how the movie compares to Avatar 3D-wise, which is to date the visual benchmark by which other 3D movies are judged. As for the movie itself it's an amazing piece of film-making whose plot and pace reminded me of the movie Castaway.
Now, onto the 3D:
When I originally watched the movie Avatar in theaters, its 3D effect blew my mind. For me, that movie is the benchmark all 3D movies should aspire to achieve, when it comes to 3D implementation. Over the years, and after watching avatar in the theater, I've watched a mixed bag of 3D movies that initially led me to believe 3D in the living room would never achieve the quality of what I watched in the theater when Avatar knocked my socks off and introduced me to the world of modern 3D. Then, after a period of exclusivity with Panasonic, Avatar 3D was finally made available on Blu-Ray. To my surprise, after watching avatar in 3D Blu-Ray in the comfort of my living room, it looked EXACTLY the same as in the theater. Perfect. Visually astounding. And one HUGE detail: Crosstalk free. (For the uninitiated, crosstalk if the effect present in many 3D movies in which the edges of objects on the screen look blurry and doubled. Many people not only find this effect annoying but it's known to case headaches and even nausea in many moviegoers). The fact that Avatar was 100% crosstalk free led me to one conclusion: 3D Blu Rays can look every bit as good in your living room as the movie originally looked on the theater screen, as long as the movie is done right, shot right and encoded right. Just like James Cameron did with Avatar. Which finally brings me to Life of Pi.
This Blu Ray movie packs the best 3D I've seen, after the hundred or so movies that have graced my TV screen since avatar. The 3D effect in Life of Pi is absolutely flawless. Crosstalk is absolutely non-existent. I can't stress this enough. The fact that this movie nails its 3D presentation and it contains zero crosstalk whatsoever, along with the masterful way in which director Ang Lee shot this movie take your movie experience to a whole new level. When you're watching the movie the absence of crosstalk allows you to forget for a second you're watching a Blu-Ray movie and that you-re wearing the stupid glasses and simply allows you to immerse yourself in the visuals. Your eyes get used to the new dimension they're perceiving instantly and you end up losing yourself in the lush landscapes and in the incredibly rich color palette this movie brings to your living room. The colors are so vibrant, the objects so sharp and defined you almost feel you're looking through a glass.
Unlike gimmicky 3D movies that try to impress you by throwing objects at your face, the 3D effect in Life of Pie is used instead to immerse the viewer in this fantastic world. It's done tastefully, technically impeccably and with amazing results. And unlike said gimmicky 3D movies in which you feel like you're just watching a 2D movie with dark glasses 90% of the time, and the 3D is just reserved for fast paced action scenes that make up probably 10% of the movie, in Life of Pi 3D is present on the screen almost 99% of the time. Like it's one more color the director was able to play with when painting this masterpiece. You don't need to wait for an action scene to see the 3D in all its glory. As soon as the movie starts and you're presented with the lush visuals of an Indian zoo, you see the 3d in all its glory. 2 minutes into the movie the narrative takes you to the protagonist's living room where he is having a conversation with a book writer. Two characters sitting in a living room talking. A scene that most 3D movies wouldn't even consider introducing 3D on, (let alone using their 3D budget to enhance), yet in Life of Pi, as mundane as a scene like this could be, is giving the royal 3D treatment and you see the characters, perfectly defined in the foreground, and the rest of the living room, purposefully out of focus in the background, like if it is the background of the actual living room you're sitting in.
Whereas avatar is a CGI fest, (and that's a flavor of movie I also certainly enjoy) In terms of visual effects, Life of Pi is just a different animal. CGI, while definitely existent, is only one, amongst many aces under the director's sleeve. He also plays, with color, (and boy does he!) contrast, angles, landscapes, and also the masterful 3D implementation to submerge you in the story.
To sum it up, not only is this an amazing movie totally worth watching, but this 3D Blu-Ray is one you will definitely want to keep on your shelf whenever you want to show your 3D setup to your friends. Along with avatar, it is in my opinion the finest example of 3D done right you can have in your collection. Definitely reference material for 3D quality, and also proof that whenever you get crosstalk ridden cheaply done 3D movies, is not because the technology is not there yet but because the movie was not shot or encoded properly, and basically they were cheap, lazy, or both. The technology to make your living room 3D look as good as the best theater 3D can offer, is definitely there. And Ang Lee took it and ran with it.
on December 8, 2012
Castaway meets Planet Earth with a few pointed spiritual overtones thrown in for good measure. As the plot slowly develops, it takes the slant of a classical fantasy adventure, akin to the serial novels and comic strips of the early 20th century, granting the screen an entrancing, otherworldly sensibility. As is, that would've been a perfectly acceptable stylistic decision - after all, director Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made no apologies for its less-grounded moments - but such stylish exaggerations actually become an essential part of the telling when an admission in the final act changes everything we'd just seen. Magnificently composed and spectacularly beautiful, it would be worth watching for the eye candy alone. Lee's restraint in this regard is especially impressive; he knows precisely when his audience will want to linger in a moment and indulges them with one breath-catching vista after another. Kudos to the enormous team of effects artists; their combined efforts have produced a cinematic masterpiece. A bit sluggish at times, with a few moments that tease the boundaries of plausibility, its visuals are a revelation and I'm still considering some of the story's underlying meanings a day later. Worth experiencing.