Life of Pi is a breathtaking adventure drama from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee. Based on the book by Yann Martel, this beautiful film tells the story of Pi Patel, a young Indian boy whose survival at sea forms the basis for a spiritual journey of epic proportions.
Ang Lee has a firm grasp on translating intimate and epic moments, making him a great choice to direct Life of Pi, a film which has had several directors attached, including M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and Jean-Pierre Jeuzet (Amelie), since it was optioned. Lee's dedication and passion for film-making casts him headlong into projects much like our hero, Pi, who finds himself trapped with a tiger in a life boat at sea.
While the novel imbued a cinematic quality and was turned into a first person perspective illustrated book, which may have inspired some of Lee's work, it was deemed impossible to adapt. The Bengal tiger known as Richard Parker, is virtually a co-lead in Life of Pi and it just seemed overambitious to even contemplate an adaptation. Yet, technology, both 3D and CGI, has come to a place where it's possible to realise a CGI character with presence and a sense of reality.
The Bengal tiger had 15 artists dedicated to its fur alone, all 10 million hairs of it, seamlessly interspersing a real tiger with the CGI version and creating the environment for Life of Pi. It's amazing how we're transported to this dire situation, feeling as though we're also stranded in that life boat with Pi and Richard. Lee's used 3D technology in a way that even astounded James Cameron with forwarded thinking on the possibilities and intended use for the next generation.
Ang Lee has created another dimension with colour, light and 3D. It's real yet it's unreal. He's taken Yann Martel's novel and extended the idea of highly unlikely but possible into the visual representation of Life of Pi. There's a sense of magic realism at play, taking the same lively ebb-and-flow, setting and charm of Slumdog Millionaire, turning it into a survival adventure like Castaway with the grandeur and storytelling format of Water for Elephants.
Suraj Sharma makes his film debut, after trying for the part on a whim after accompanying his brother to an audition. Lee has channeled Sharma's natural charisma and created a space for Pi to live and breathe, relaying an emotional atmosphere to give the character a sense of reality. Sharma's performance is unassuming and we grow to sympathise with the boy whose big heart and honesty make him endearing.
Irfaan Khan plays the older, wiser Pi Patel, whose story catches the attention of a Canadian writer looking for a life-changing story on which to write his next novel. Khan's solemn performance doesn't have the same joy as Sharma, but Khan's intensity and earnest eyes create a sense of continuity for the well-traveled survivor. Rafe Spall plays a reflective sort of character, listening intently with a sense of wonderment and fascination after re-shooting scenes with the famous-to-distracting Tobey Maguire.
The content deals with religion from Martel's perspective. After being convinced that religion is for children and impoverished nations, the author took a trip to India where he became more open to spirituality, exploring the deep symbolism and emotional undercurrents of religion.
Life of Pi is a spectacular film, easily one of the best films of 2012. The message is transcendent and thought-provoking remaining true to the spirit of the novel. Ang Lee has brought an eye-popping sense of beauty to this simple yet remarkable story of human will power, faith, hope and courage under fire. The performances are solid, the visual effects will enchant you for days and the storytelling is elemental - flowing like water from one scene to the next.
At two hours, this epic adventure drama holds strong delivering wave after wave of entertainment value and quality. For a story about a boy, a tiger and a boat... Life of Pi has the depth of thought, performance and artistry to keep you locked in, fascinated and amazed, making it a definite must-see.
The bottom line: Enchanting