Life of Pi is based on a book. A book that has been sat on my shelf waiting to be read since my GCSEs and somehow I (ashamedly) still haven’t picked it up. I have a feeling that will change after the spectacular visual treat cooked up by director Ang Lee.
Ang Lee returns to the directors chair 3 years after the somewhat lacklustre Taking Woodstock. He’s best known for the highly praised and stylish Crouching tiger, hidden dragon and the infamous Brokeback Mountain. His entourage for Life of Pi includes cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Benjamin Button, Tron Legacy) and screenplay writer David Magee (Finding Neverland).
For film that has been called “unfilmable”, (M Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Curaron and Jean- Pierre Jeunet have all previously been attached as directors before running into problems and bailing), the filmmakers have done a great job at making something truly special.
Lee chose to look past recruiting a Hollywood regular to play the younger version of the main character: Pi (short for Piscine), and dare I say it paid off. Suraj Sharma has pulled off a performance that complements the visual style of the movie without diminishing the character and situation. The prologue to Pi’s grand story serves to set up both Pi (I loved the scenes where he claims his shortened name in front of various school classes), Richard Parker, and Pi’s various beliefs in several different religions.
For Pi’s older-self they chose a more seasoned Hollywood actor: Irrfan Khan (The Amazing Spider-Man, Slumdog Millionaire). Again, it’s arguably Khan’s greatest Performance; coming across as the warm, wise and gentle character that completes the character defining journey Pi goes through.
I guess it would be difficult to review this film without mentioning the other main character: Richard Parker. Richard Parker is a Bengal Tiger and for the majority of the movie a completely computer animated Bengal Tiger, which makes Suraj Sharma’s performance even more impressive. The animation in this movie is more than comparable to that found in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it really helps build the tiger into a character that learns to respect Pi.
Claudio Miranda utilises aspects of the environment to achieve some magnificent shots in Life of Pi. As someone who isn’t a big fan of 3D I can’t say that life of Pi changed that. Granted it was used to great effect throughout the film, adding a lot of depth to many of the scenes and adding to the experience. Yet, I think the film will be just as beautiful and engaging in 2D.
Overall I loved the experience of the film. It’s engaging, beautiful and even brutal at times. It will certainly deserve any awards that may bestow it, and I definitely recommend catching it in the cinema if you can!
Tldr; Life of Pi is visually spectacular, brutally emotional, superb acting and impressive animation.