Film Review: Life of Pi

Wednesday 18 December 2013 by

Life of Pi, Film, Yann Martel, Ang Lee

I’m late to the game, I know. But Life of Pi was on Sky Movies and I happened to hit record. It was about time I watched the visually acclaimed Ang Lee epic, even if it wasn’t in 3D (I’m not a huge 3D fan as it is).

The film is based on the Yann Martel novel (which won the Man Booker) in which a young Indian boy is stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, orangutan, hyena and a tiger called Richard Parker.

On their way to Canada with a zoo’s-worth of animals, Pi and his family find themselves on a sinking ship – and only Pi makes it on to a lifeboat. What follows is a tale so fantastical it either isn’t true, or it will make you believe in God.

This is a gorgeous story of survival, love, respect, and belief. I enjoyed the book immensely, and intended to enjoy the film just as much. With so many years between the read and the watch, I quickly realised that there is a lot I have forgotten. From the tale of the early years in India, to Pi’s final arrival on a Mexican beach, the outer edges of the story faded against the main bulk of the story – which is ultimately Pi in a boat with a tiger. But the story feels greater than that. It does feel truly epic.

As for visually? Perhaps I missed something when I didn’t watch it in 3D, because I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. Perhaps it’s also because some of the bigger scenes that were so acclaimed were featured in the trailers and so I’ve seen them a good fifteen times already.

I have to nit-pick and whinge about the fact that our Pi doesn’t grow a beard in all the weeks he’s at sea (he’s meant to be in his teens, I would expect at least a bit of fluff on the chin), and Richard Parker doesn’t exactly behave like a proper tiger all the time (which I felt he did in the book). But this is a beautiful film, and the story is still as entertaining as it was the first time around. What I love about the story is that even to the end, you don’t know what is true and what isn’t, and that’s kind of okay – you are left to choose which story you would rather believe.

Suraj Sharma as teenage Pi, and Irrfan Khan as adult Pi, are fantastic. They are believable, loveable, and bring the right kind of light-heartedness to a serious role. Rafe Spall is a pleasant addition as the writer, and Gerard Depardieu’s cameo as the ship’s cook is inspired.

Ang Lee’s casting choices, visual acrobatics, and loyalty to the book, all make this a gorgeous film to watch. It’s a popcorn and slippers kind of film – not a feel good in the style of Elf (sorry – I’ve watched Elf  three times in the last two weeks, so it’s my point of reference for everything), but gives you all the right kind of warm fuzzies. It’s impressive enough for the film buffs, and simple enough for the occasional-film-watcher.

If you do have an opportunity to watch it in 3D, and you don’t get seasick from it like I do, it’s probably worth a go. You can see where the 3D elements would have been in their prime, and there’s a bit of me that wants to go back and watch those bits just to get the full effect. This isn’t a film I would get on DVD to add to my collection, but it’s definitely one I’d pick up as a suggestion at a friend’s house or hire for a night in.

Rating, Four, Review

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