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Life of Pi: Reviewed
Director Ang Lee has achieved the impossible by bringing Yann Martel’s worldwide best-selling novel ‘Life of Pi’ to the big screen. Writer David Magee also has to be applauded for the adapted screenplay for a film considered to be unfilmable.
‘Life of Pi’ tells the story of Pi Patel, a young man who becomes shipwrecked for 227 days in the middle of the shark infested Pacific Ocean. He is the only human survivor adrift in a twenty-one foot lifeboat with only a 450 pound Bengal tiger for company.
Years later, a Canadian author (Rafe Spall) has been told that he should interview a man by the name of Pi Patel as he has an amazing life changing story to tell. The adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) becomes the film’s narrator and we the audience see the adventure through his eyes.
We follow the back story of a young five-year old Pi growing up in India where his parents owned a zoo in the French quarter. His parents were also responsible for naming him Piscine Molitor Patel after a swimming pool in France. To survive a daily taunting at secondary school the twelve-year old cleverly changes his name to just ‘Pi’. It’s at this age that Pi has his first close encounter in the zoo with a young tiger by the strange name of Richard Parker. I kid you not.
The film picks up pace when we meet Pi as a young man played by newcomer Suraj Sharma. Due to financial reasons his parents are forced to sell the zoo and they set off for a new life in Canada (yes Canada!) and ship all of their animals with them. During a storm the freighter sinks and Pi and Richard Parker share the lifeboat. Can Pi co-exist with the tiger who would not hesitate to have him for dinner? (not in a come dine with me way either). Of course we kind of know the answer as the adult Pi is re telling the story. However, this does not take away any of the excitement and anticipation.
The film is a breath taking visual feast. To be honest I can go through life without seeing films in 3D, particularly as it seems to be used just because film makers can. But in this instance Ang Lee utilises 3D to the maximum affect. As well as images ‘coming at you’ we also experience some great use of depth taking you into the screen. The same can be said for CGI effects. If you can’t do it well don’t do it at all. It just so happens that the film shows some of the best digital effects I have seen on screen. Apparently all of the tiger images in the lifeboat are CGI. So a big high-five to Suraj Sharma for making these scenes all that more believable.
The film does occasionally drift more into fantasy displaying beautifully coloured visuals linking the ocean and the sky while introducing us to an assortment of sea creatures. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many funny moments there were some of which were laugh out loud ones. Even the opening credits were interesting to watch.
Four out of five stars.
Released in the UK: December 20.