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3/29/18

LIFE OF PI - REVIEW


Based on a novel by Yann Martel, Life Of Pi was directed by Ang Lee, who won the Best Director Oscar that year. It was a significant commercial and critical hit back in 2012, banking on its impressive 3D visuals and unusual scenario.

The plot sees a Canadian journalist (Rafe Spall) meet a man called Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) who has a wild story to tell that might be worth writing about. He describes his childhood and how he wrestled with various faiths throughout, from Christianity to Hinduism. His father eventually decides to leave India with all the animals from his zoo so the family, including a teenaged Pi, sets off on a long boat trip. One night, a storm suddenly sinks the boat and only Pi appears to survive. He sails off on a lifeboat with a couple of animals, one of which, we eventually find out, is a tiger he calls Richard Parker who turns out to be both the biggest liability and the one thing keeping Pi alert and alive. While the first act of the film sets the main themes well, it's only when Pi is finally lost at sea that things get actually interesting. Seeing Pi attempt to survive in such a mad situation, with tigers and hyenas running around on a small boat, makes for a fascinating watch. The film skilfully shows the incongruousness of the whole thing while never letting the film "sink" itself into farce. One wishes, however, that the darker elements of the story had been a bit more prevalent.

Visually, Life Of Pi is certainly the treat it was aiming to be: the CGI is mostly very effective and the cinematography is stunning. There's a gimmicky approach to the 3D which doesn't translate all that well to the small screen but makes for rather unique set pieces. There's a surreal quality to the film that's consistently appealing, like when Pi discovers an island with thousands of meerkats or his entire relationship with the tiger, and the payoff is both understated and thought-provoking. The good thing about Life Of Pi is you can enjoy the film on different levels, whether it's by actively unpacking its themes and symbols, enjoying it purely as a spectacle or frowning in disbelief at the out-there events depicted on screen. Suraj Sharma plays Pi for a majority of the film and he does a good job for the most part, especially considering the strange things he has to react to and the physicality of the role. GĂ©rard Depardieu, who plays the mean chef on the boat near the start of the film, feels criminally underused, however, in a small role that should have been a lot more significant.

It may take a bit of time to get going and it does stumble occasionally but Life Of Pi boasts such stunning visuals and tells such a compelling tale that it's worth seeing at least once. It'll make you want to read the book and it'll get you to accept the most outlandish situations but it'll also make you rethink that cruise you were thinking of booking for next Summer...

Quite good.

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