Review: Life Of Pi

Directed by: Ang Lee.

Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain.

Rating:  BBFC-PG Running Time: 127 mins.

Based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel’s the movie starts with an adult Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan), living in Canada and approached by an unnamed novelist (Rafe Spall) after being told that Pi will be able to tell him an incredible story. Pi tells him of when he was younger, growing up in India with his family who owned a zoo until, when Pi was 16 (played by Suraj Sharma), a dispute over the land forced them to sell off the zoo’s animals to a Canadian zoo, and relocate to Canada.

As the family make the journey across the Pacific with the animals on a cargo vessel, the ship capsizes and sinks, leaving Pi the sole survivor on a raft along with a Bengal tiger named ‘Richard Parker’. Stranded at sea with no sign of being rescued, Pi must learn to work together with the the dangerous predator in order to survive on the ocean and make his way back to land.

I’m hesitant to reveal much more detail than the movie’s opening 30 minutes and what has already been shown in trailers, as having not read the book I was not aware of the story that was to unfold before me and it is a thoroughly engrossing experience. From what I’ve heard about the book it appears that care has been taken to make an adaptation that is fairly faithful to the book, and I believe that both parties who have and who haven’t read the book would find much here to enjoy.

Ang lee has a very visual directional style, which has not always been of help to his movies. Thankfully, what he has done with Life Of Pi is nothing short of miraculous. Numerous reviews have likened this movie to James Cameron’s Avatar because of it’s striking use of visuals and of the 3D technology, which are impressive though I think the comparison is a little unfair and comes largely from one sequence in particular involving glow in the dark algae that does evoke memories of the first luminescent scenes from that movie.

The movie that it most resembles is Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away, only with the majority of the movie set at sea aboard a small lifeboat instead of on a deserted island. It’s especially impressive that given this limited setting, the movie never seems to feel like it’s becoming boring or a chore to watch. There are some genuinely emotionally charged scenes throughout which rely on one thing, which if it had failed would have meant disaster for the entire movie.

That one thing is Suraj Sharma. Make sure you remember his name as this boy is going places, and gives a phenomenal performance. Though he receives support from the impressive CGI effects of his on-screen animal counterpart Richard Parker, and from the cut-away scenes with actors Khan and Spall, this movie is 99% a performance piece from him and he deserves every bit of praise that he will get, especially as the movie progresses further and further into its second hour.

The movie is rated PG which I do agree with, but parents of children under the age of 12 should consider their decision strongly before taking them to see this movie, as though it’s not overly graphic with the elements it deals with, the tone and subject of the movie strongly touches upon the subjects of faith, death and morality, and parents may find their child asking difficult questions about these subjects as a result of this.

Life Of Pi is an extremely dense movie, in both the narrative and the visual sense. Ang Lee has found a movie that serves his talents well and deserves to be seen by all. A fantastic piece of cinema that you should try to see on the big screen and take advantage of the 3D visual element which in this case definitely makes for a more immersive experience.

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Posted on December 14, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I hope you’re right about Suraj Sharma – that he’s going places. I think he was wonderful as well. Sometimes the actors from these types of films fade into obscurity. Whatever happened to Kelly Reno from The Black Stallion?

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