Director: Ang Lee
Writers: David Magee (screenplay) and Yann Martel (novel)
Cast members: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
Runtime: 127 min
While some novels widely regarded as “unfilmable” have successfully transitioned from the page to the screen, many others have lost much in their reimagining. Fortunately, the film version of Life of Pi offers a visual version of this unique text that adheres to and even compliments the original.
After surviving a devastating shipwreck, young man Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with several animals including Richard Parker, a ferocious Bengal tiger. Together, Pi and Richard Parker must face the harrowing challenges of survival on the sea, inevitably forming a unique relationship almost akin to friendship. Pi also deals with poignant questions of faith, as he is daily faced with life and death situations. Directed by Ang Lee and based on the best-selling book by Yann Martel.
Life of Pi is undoubtedly a film that flaunts its visuals and special effects. However, I was relieved to note that the movie did not lose its central focus on character amongst its shots of expansive oceans and computer generated animals. The frame story, wherein an adult Pi relates his tale to an interested author, provides a long set up before the character actually finds himself stranded in the lifeboat, allowing the audience to build a relationship with and to better understand Pi. We therefore feel as if we take part in his journey along with him, instead of simply observing it from afar. I especially enjoyed the film’s beautiful and inclusive representation of religion, although some may find it to be a bit heavy handed. The surprise ending is handled deftly and, as in the text, thought provoking ambiguity remains. The visuals are stunning as expected and do not disappoint. I am generally not a fan of 3D films, as I find the added depth distracting and detracting from the clarity of the picture. This movie did not turn me into a convert, and although I did enjoy the novel experience of full immersion into Pi’s aquatic world, I would still elect to view the film in crystal clear, good old-fashioned 2D upon a repeat viewing.
As it is one of only three films to receive a nomination in all three categories of Best Picture, Director, and Editing, many believe Life of Pi to be front-runner Lincoln’s only competition for the ultimate award. Although I do not believe an upset will occur in this particular manner, I very much enjoyed the film, and would love to see it win the award for Cinematography, Visual Effects, or Music, all of which would be well deserved.
The sense of wonder associated with this magnificent story is not lost in its transition from book to film. Engaging performances, both by the leading human and CGI actor, and visually stunning cinematography and effects create a magical film that perfectly represent the original book, and will hopefully encourage many to check it out as well.
Photo Credits: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation TM and © 2011