Wednesday, 2 January 2013

FILM: Life of Pi (9/10)

Why did I watch it?
Having read the book (Yann Martel's Life of Pi) over the summer in anticipation of the film's release, this was one film I was desperate to see on the big screen.

What's it all about?
Life of Pi tells the story of Pi (Suraj Sharma), an enthusiastic Indian boy with more than a passing interest in religion, he finds solace in the individual facets of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, whose father owns a zoo in Pondicherry. Tragedy strikes when the family emigrate to Canada with their animals as the ship sinks and Pi finds himself the sole survivor on-board a lifeboat, with Richard Parker, the zoo's Bengal tiger, for company.
Should you watch it?
Academy Award winner Ang Lee's Life of Pi is a stunningly beautiful film. Supposedly an 'unfilmable' novel, Yann Martel's book gives Lee ample opportunity for great visual imagery, an opportunity Lee and cinematographer Claudio Miranda grab with both hands. Whether its shots of Pi's boat floating adrift on a sunrise-reflecting ocean, of an island inhabited by a thousands of meerkats or of close-ups of the tiger, the visuals are unrivalled.

Lee dedicates enough time either side of Pi's incredible journey, with an adult Pi narrating his story to a writer (Rafe Spall), to give meaning to Pi's emotional ordeal. Although perhaps because of the nature of live action, in particular with facial expressions of the actors, some of the ending's ambiguity may have been lost in translation to the big screen.

Newcomer Suraj Sharma gives a fantastic performance as Pi, playing the role against a fully CGI tiger in what must have been a difficult filming environment. The other true star of the film is Richard Parker the tiger, the special effects for which really are outstanding.

In not staying true to the book, I was slightly disappointed that the writers felt the need to give Pi a love interest at the film's start, I don't feel that this added anything to Pi's character or to the story once the family set sail. Did the writers not want anyone to think he was gay or something?! Anyway, I also felt that Pi's gradual blindness from dehydration which for me was one of the most harrowing parts of the novel, could have been featured to add some more despair to Pi's journey, not that it needs more! However, my grumbles about how the film relates to the book count for little.

I had incredibly high expectations for this film after reading the book and seeing the trailers and thankfully Lee's adaptation lived up to those. Life of Pi is a beautiful film of a boy's unbelievable journey and how he finds a home for it among his eclectic religious beliefs.

Bring on the Oscar nominations.

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