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Life Of Pi

Life Of Pi

life of pi2012

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Directed by: Ang Lee

Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan

It’s not often that a well-loved and acclaimed book like Yann Martel’s Life of Pi gets such a competent director like Ang Lee and, more than that, actually gain good reviews. And you know what, they’re not lying. It really is good.

There are many reasons why it shouldn’t work. First off, it’s not the easiest story to translate to the big screen. The film takes place largely (and I do mean largely) on a boat, in the middle of the Pacific, with a tiger and a fifteen-year-old Indian boy. In a way, it’s a very uneventful film because there really isn’t much that happens in terms of actual, well, events. There are only a handful of recurring characters and hardly any subplots, but it doesn’t feel dragged at all, or too long. You barely notice the time passing because Pi, played by Suraj Sharma, is just so easy to like, and actually feels like a teenager. He feels human. Hell, he looks human. The attention to detail is astounding, right down to his sunburnt cheeks, dried skin, overgrown hair, you name it; Pi actually looks like he’s been at sea for months, with little to eat.

The film doesn’t shy away from the fact that this is boy who, aside from tiger Richard Parker, is completely alone and has lost everything. Pi reacts to this loss, but is also smart enough to focus on surviving above all.  As it is told in flashback form, with Irrfan Khan as our older Pi, we learn small details about Pi’s life back in India such as why he’s named Piscine, in addition to his first love and the fact that he’s deeply religious, identifying as a Muslim, Christian and Hindu. One of the major themes of the book, so I’m told, is religion and this is not lost in the film. There are very moving scenes where it’s addressed that if there is a loving God, why would he bring this upon Pi, who has been a devout believer for all his life? I appreciated this especially because religion is kind of a touchy subject in today’s media and it was refreshing to see a character like Pi, who is so accepting and open-minded.

Another reason it shouldn’t work is the budget. I guess because of that the parallels drawn between Life of Pi and Avatar are inevitable. I mean, the first trailer I saw quite obviously stated, “THE NEW ‘AVATAR’”. And of course there are similarities: both films couldn’t have been made earlier because of the amount of money it would take to make, in particular how much the computer generating would cost. Both films could also have only been made in the present day, because of the software now available to us. Inevitable as they may be, I feel the parallels are unjustified.

I suppose I’m biased in a sense because I resent the hell out of the latter and the knee-jerk reaction to any praise is, ‘IT WAS ‘POCAHONTAS’ WITH BLUE PEOPLE AND THE ACADEMY ATE IT UP,’ but really, Life of Pi is just a different story. Avatar was impressive in its visuals because it was essentially a whole new world constructed from CGI. But to me, it never felt real. Life of Pi is more impressive because the CGI is right there, against the real, but never feels like it doesn’t belong there. Even when it’s so clearly CGI, it’s still so damn beautifully. There were many instances where it literally took my breath away, even when it was at its most subtle. It’s not as show-off-y as I felt Avatar was, like ‘look at us, look at our technology, look at our budget, and look at our imagination’. Life of Pi is a simpler story in many ways and certainly set in a simpler environment, but uses every aspect of it to its full potential.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about this film other than, well done. Well done to the cast, to Ang Lee and the crew, and to everyone who had some form of input. The Golden Globe nominations are not undeserved, and neither are the Oscar nominations to come. If it doesn’t get ‘Best Cinematography’ I’ll eat my foot.


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