As the latest in the raft of “unfilmable” books that’ve recently been adapted for the big screen I was a little dubious about Life of Pi, however, if I were to sum it up in one word, that word would be “spectacular”. And as a fan of Yan Martel’s novel I can honestly say I wasn’t at all disappointed; David Magee has done a fantastic job in adapting it for film.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Pi is a Piscine Patel, a sensitive yet bold and inquisitive boy whose life is turned upside down (quite literally), when the container ship he, his family and their zoo-load of animals are travelling from India to Canada on, dramatically sinks in a storm in the Pacific. Our hero finds himself on the only lifeboat with some unlikely company including a ravenous Bengal tiger, brilliantly named “Richard Parker” after an administrative mix-up. From this point on, it’s an incredible study of humanity, explored through faith (Pi is Christian, Hindu and Muslim) and the intrinsic human drive to survive.
I have to admit I’m glad I didn’t read the book recently and chose not to revisit the story before seeing the film, as for me nothing was missing, and the essence of the tale was true to my memory of the book. And while it seems many have felt letdown by the ending, I challenge you not to leave the cinema pondering the story’s twist, just as the reporter adult Pi is recounting his experience to does.
Technically this film is far beyond anything I’ve seen before, streets ahead of the likes of Avatar and the Hobbit. I simply don’t want to believe that the tiger on screen was almost entirely CGI, as I bought every tension-fuelled second of it.
Seriously, this is a CGI tiger. Mental.
In fact, it was an utter feast for the eyes from start to finish, and I found myself greedily eating up every scene, whether sea-scape, tangled island, zoo life or charmingly run-down French India. The sea-scapes in particular were mind-blowing; the sight of endless skies reflected in vast, still ocean is happily etched in my mind like a brain screen-saver.
My new sky-sea brain screensaver.
If Ang Lee and his team don’t get nominated for every technical award going this season then he’s been robbed, as his achievement truly is incredible.
If there was one slight weak point, I’m inclined to say that Suraj Sharma as teenage Pi, was possibly a little lacking in gravitas to carry such a bulk of the story. An unknown until this film, his life will undoubtedly be forever changed after a chance audition while accompanying his brother to the casting, and he showed huge potential; but I found myself wondering what a more experienced actor could have bought to the role. It is entirely to his credit however, that it’s hard to think he wasn’t acting opposite a genuine mass of fur, teeth and claws, so I heartily hi-five him for that!
If you were on the fence about seeing Life of Pi, or reluctant as a lover of the novel, I would truly recommend giving it a chance and please fork out for the 3D. It’s an enthralling emotional rollercoaster of a story, and the most visually impressive film to date by my book.