Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
Based upon Yann Martel's novel of the same name, "Life Of Pi" narrates the physical and emotional journey of Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry when he is shipwrecked on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for 227 days.
Some details have been changed in the film, such as to whom Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel recounts to his story to, in this case, instead of Japanese officers (also present in the film); it is to a writer, hinted to be Yann Martel (Rafe Spall). Nevertheless, it remains a fantastical story, and Ang Lee ramps it up to the point of impossible with scenes like the whale jumping over the lifeboat, a "Fantasia" visual dive into the sea, and keeps it alive with subtle humour. It is a story of faith that reaches as far as the viewers, asking us if we believe in Pi's tale of survival, which is exactly why Yann Martel's novel won the 2003 Boeke Prize and the 2004 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Best Adult Fiction. One does not just watch "Life Of Pi", one lives it, and it will certainly bring tears to your eyes.
The film's miraculous storytelling is accentuated by its stylistic visuals, as it is in itself a testament of Ang Lee's visual mastery, much like what "Hugo" was to Martin Scorsese. From the opening credits that resemble the National Geographic program, Ang Lee, his cinematographer Claudio Miranda and music director Mychael Danna pull out all the stops to turn "Life Of Pi" into an industry landmark. For one, Academy Award Bill Westenhofer and his team at Rhythm and Hues studios has made a CGI tiger that is virtually indistinguishable from a real one. Then there are the sweeping landscapes such as the seeminly infinite sky when reflected by the water and the mysterious island that Pi and Richard Parker encounters. At times, the 3D effects may seem like a marketing gimmick, but you are more than willing to be pulled in by the luminous and vibrant colour palette and creative presentation. It is a spiritual allegory about finding one's place in the world and maintaining faith in the face of adversity that is poetic, lyrically shot and seductively scored.
Equally amazing are the four actors that Ang Lee found to play Pi. From Tandon's precociousness to Khan's weary 50-year-old with a twinkle in his eye, it feels like Gautam Belur, Ayush Tandon, Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan are actually the same person. Tandon is endearing as young Pi, while Khan demonstrates to us why he deserves a permanent place in Hollywood. But the breakthrough star of the film is inarguably Sharma. The 19-year-old actor bears an uncanny resemblance to Dev Patel in "Slumdog Millionaire" with his wide-eyed look and determined spirit, however, there is more praise to heap upon Sharma considering that he is a rookie riding solo in the film whereas Patel has the likes of Freida Pinto and Anil Kapoor supporting him, along with a prior acting experience in the British teen drama series "Skins".
Other actors such as Rafe Spall, Tabu and Adil Hussain may play slightly lesser roles in the film, but are not easily dismissed, especially Hussain, who plays Pi's father. A strict teacher, Hussain proves not to be one of those stereotypical Indians when he makes his entry looking like a hippie and tells his son at an early age not to blindly follow religion. It should be noted that contrary to most filmmakers, Ang Lee does not whitewash his cast, and even went so far as to cut Tobey Maguire from the film for consistency, so that he has an entirely international cast.
Overall, if there were any doubts as to Ang Lee's position in Hollywood's A-list, "Life Of Pi" will dispel them with its fantastic visuals, strong narrative and excellent acting. For viewers who have yet to read Yann Martel's fantasy adventure novel, "Life Of Pi" serves as a great motivator for them to pick it up, while it is up to fans of the novel to decide which version they prefer, like Spall's writer. Definitely watch it in IMAX 3D.Cinema Online, 23 November 2012