Review: Life of Pi / Cert: PG / Director: Ang Lee / Screenplay: David Magee / Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain / Release Date: December 20th
After defeating several directors, Yann Martel’s hugely popular novel seemed likely to be consigned to the pile of books marked “unfilmable”. But it has now been brought to the screen intact by director Ang Lee and writer David Magee, and the result is one of the most visually stunning and affecting movies of the year.
The Pi of the title is Piscine Patel, who grows up in India with his family, who run a zoo. Due to failing finances, they are forced to move lock, stock and barrel to Canada, and en route the ship and most of the animals are sunk, leaving Pi alone on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and worryingly, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi has to survive on his wits and avoid the tiger's clutches whilst learning something about himself along the way.
Similar to what Scorsese did with Hugo, Ang Lee uses 3D as a tool and each frame is designed to make the most of the format. It’s beautiful and stunning in a way that few films manage, with hallucinatory and beguiling sequences both on the sea and under it. Add to this a bunch of seamless CG animals, and you're talking a serious visual effects Academy Award contender here.
Visuals are one thing, but a film has to have substance to back it up. Life of Pi has a riveting story that works best if you haven’t read the book. It’s a plot that will spark conversation and debate about the important things in life, and you walk out of the film feeling that your world has been changed somehow. There is a touching essential truth at the heart of this film, and Ang Lee makes sure that you feel what the characters feel through his assured direction and two remarkable lead performances by newcomer Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan as the younger and older Pi respectively. Lest you think this all sounds a bit heavy-going, rest assured there are plenty of lighter moments, and altogether Life of Pi is a miraculous achievement.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10