A young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor...a fearsome Bengal tiger.
I must confess, I loved the book when it came out 10 years ago. It was a challenge to follow it through completely, nevertheless the book at the time won several accolades for it's brilliant narrative, visual poetry and it touched upon a very interesting aspect on telling a story, the way we choose to envision it. So when the movie version was announced I was hoping to get a visual treat, and in the end I wasn't disappointed with what director, Ang Lee intended to show with "Life of Pi".
Lee even added that it was the most difficult movie he ever made from a cinematic context. His work paid off and from what I gather it's considered to be the 3rd best film of this year.
Film Critic Roger Ebert even described the film to be a "miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery"
That being said it's not a film without its flaws but I'll get there soon enough.
The movie shot mostly at sea, in jaw dropping 3D does well to give you some faith in digital cinema. My fear was that it would have made it lackluster and even not allow me to enjoy the vibrant visuals to it's complete potential. However, once the movie began, and the opening cuts of the animals at the Pondicherry Zoo were shown in the 3D format, you cannot help but admire the level of detail that goes into this film and it doesn't detract from the viewing experience at all, if anything you must watch it the way it was intended to be shown.
The narrative, done quite brilliantly by Irfan Khan as he narrates his tale to a writer as he often flashes backs to his childhood, with Ayush Tandon playing the role of Piscine as a young boy. In the latest flashback we see a teenage Pi played wonderfully by newcomer, Suraj Sharma, narrating his circumstances as he tries to maintain his sanity and maintain his life while juggling it with an animal that's so humanly named Richard Parker. While he's pretty much CGI in the film, the animation done on the animal is near convincing.
Other characters include, Pi's parents played by Tabu and Adil Hussain respectively as mother and father. Ravi, his brother and minor characters such as the cook played by Gérard Depardieu.
India has its limelight here with scenes coming from Pondicherry and Munnar ( Kerala), it's a stark polarizing image we last saw of India in mainstream cinema (Slumdog Millionaire). The Jungle Book meets castaway story line can prove to be a drag for the 2 hours 6 minutes it runs for but the visuals do try and hold the weight for the film, while some may not agree with it's varying themes on spirituality and symbolism that is in the film, it doesn't try to leave the viewer open ended to the true themes of the book.
Does it do justice to the Martel's best selling novel ? Visually yes, story wise, not as much as I'd like to think so. While Ang Lee tried to stay best to the story's true nature , there are clear cut differences that aren't shown in the film. What brings this on is the film's PG rating. There are plenty of instances in the book that aren't for the fainthearted but the movie steers the audience clear from those themes. Then again that wasn't Lee's intention to completely adapt to the novel and that in retrospect is alright.
As far as music is concerned, composer Mychael Danna wanted to create something with the music's score so that it didn't reveal any clues to what Lee was going with. The sounds of Life of Pi have French, Tibetan and Indian sounds with a mixture of Western influences. I believe he played it safe by adding a relatively warm score. This can't be proved more truer with the opening title track, Pi's Lullaby.
Life of Pi is an amazing eye opening experience that you have to watch this year. It will also dangerously veer you away from the true nature of the story but watch it even if you haven't read the book and you'll still admire at nature's beauty amidst her wrath.
As Pi finally asks the writer, "Which story do you prefer?" You will want to watch and savor another taste of Pi and see what story you prefer yourself.