Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
2012/ USA, China
Director: Ang Lee
Taken from Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize winning novel and directed by Ang Lee ‘Life of Pi’ is a phenomenal triumph of digital film production and acting brilliance. The film focuses on Pi Patel played by Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma (the older and younger portrayals respectively) who recalls to novelist Rafe Spall the incredible adventure that shaped his life.
We get a long account of Pi’s young life; growing up in a zoo and all the troubles he faces at school and then we move onto the adventure he unwittingly embarks upon. After his father decides that Pi’s family need to leave India and move to America they all join a freight ship bound for North America with all their animals on board. As you will have seen in the trailer the ship sinks and Pi is left stranded at sea on a life boat with an Orangutan, a Hyena, a Zebra and a Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker. The Tiger makes quick work of the other animals but Pi survives by fashioning a raft that he floats just adrift from the boat on while he tries to work out ways to keep himself and Richard Parker alive. The result is two hours and six minutes of sheer brilliance.
The first note here must go to Suraj Sharma who as the young Pi who dominates the screen time for the character. To say the film is vastly played out between his character and a CGI tiger with no human interaction means that he is a sure fire to be nominated at this year’s Oscars. Sharma puts in a performance of absolute quality, subtle hilarity and heart-breaking emotion. Irrfan Khan is also excellent as the grown up Pi and reduced audience members to tears towards the film’s end.
The second note must go to Ang Lee who has been somewhat undercover in his directorial successes since 2005’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’. It’s a shame that due to that film being about gay cowboys that his career has suffered a kick in the teeth. (This reviewer hasn’t seen the film mentioned but it’s sad that because of a plot detail a man’s job was put at stake). However, Lee has gotten his career back on track with this as his beautiful direction gives the story real presence. Every shot and sequence is filmed and produced to perfection. This is also one of the best examples of CGI you will ever see, Richard Parker is animated expertly and at times you have to pinch yourself to remember he’s not real. Imagine if Disney had this technology when they made ‘The Lion King’… the mind boggles.
Ultimately for a film largely based around a man and a tiger stuck on a boat Life of Pi is an astronomical success in terms of film making taking from Martel’s award winning novel and is a truly heart-warming experience. You’ll be surprised at how affected you are by the plight of the industrious Pi as he navigates a Bengal tiger, flying fish, sharks, thunderstorms and starvation. You will experience every emotion possible and leave not knowing if what you saw was really true or just fiction. (Of course it’s fiction it’s a film… but go see it and come back you’ll get what I mean then)