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Saturday, 22 December 2012


0 - No Redeeming Feature
1 - Poor
2 - Passable
3 - Good.  Rent it.
4 - Full Price
5 - Must See!


 Pi Patel, played for the most part by Suraj Sharma with a confidence defying his absolute inexperience in front of the camera, and surely qualifying him for a Best Actor nod at the Oscars, is thrust into an adventure of survival at sea. The ship carrying his family and their zoo hits bad waters, inexplicably sinks, and from there he must learn how to share the confined space of a lifeboat with his only companion, the tiger Richard Parker.

Like 'Cast Away', due to its idea a great deal of the film is without speech, save for Pi's one way conversations with the animal and the occasional narration by adult Pi, played by a spectacular Irrfan Khan, who is telling his tale to an author, one who is after a great story that will "make you believe in God". Also much like another of this year's spectaculars, 'The Hobbit', the front end of the movie is loaded with a lot of setup, which those who only saw the trailer may find surprisingly hefty. Unlike 'The Hobbit', however, this front end engages you fast and it is not long before you are enjoying the development of Pi as a character, the amusing finding of his faith, his love, and his place in the family. Some genuinely hearty and smart humour can be found in this first act, also. The brilliance is that whilst it is not in any rush to get where we all know it is headed, at no point is there any wish for Lee to push it along faster; there is some understanding intrinsic to the direction that this is all important and not to be overlooked, which even those who have not read the hugely popular book pick up on. To add to this, it must be said that the length and pacing of this movie are outstanding; you would not want any more or less time spent basking in the warmth of the love and care that clearly went into putting every single gorgeous frame on the screen.
The second act is where we really see the film kick into gear and start rolling out what is stunning audiences and critics alike. From the greatest CGI animal I think I have seen on the silver screen, to the overwhelmingly beautiful photography, effects, and perhaps not the first, but certainly the best use of 3D technology to enhance the engagement with a story, 'Life Of Pi' sweeps the floor visually with anything previously held up as a bar setter.  Nothing against those previous movies, but it really does.

 All of this is obviously nothing without everything else being in place, and thankfully Ang Lee knows that the heart of his film is not how pretty it is, but the story by Yann Martel and the themes with which it deals. So what is 'Life Of Pi' about? The wonderful thing about this piece is that this answer could be different for you than it was for me. It is about a boy surviving at sea with a tiger. It is about the nature of life, death and loss. It is about the balance of fear and respect. It is about love and hope. It is about humanity and compassion. It is about religion and faith, faith not just in a higher power, but in anything in the world. It is about all of these things at once, but what I most took away from this film is how it is about the nature of nature itself. Yes, it sounds heavy and preachy, doesn't it? The truth is Lee gets the balance absolutely spot on; you take from the movie what you want and at no point does it preach at you about anything. It does not matter how you walk in, an atheist, a Hindu, a Christian, but if you are a human being with anything close to an open heart and mind, you might just walk out feeling like a better person!  Released for the festive season, it is an oddly uplifting film that entertains on one hand, and on the other is positively philosophical about our place in nature, our treatment of her, and of one another. Not often would I say that a film might just change your life, but as the film reached its finale, with both Sharma and Khan absolutely owning their respective final scenes, I realised I had been inescapably moved to tears more than once, had consciously assessed how I think about certain things, and that yes, this film just might change you for the better.  Is the preceding challenge to make a character believe in God achieved? That would be telling, but more importantly, it does not matter; in a rather smart bit of writing and beautiful execution of a twist in the tale, the film underlines that this is not really the point, and indeed never should be.

Ang Lee is a man who directs with a heart full of compassion, and a head full to its brim with an understanding of cinema's sheer power to entertain, engage and challenge, sometimes all at once. A look at his previous work is evidence enough of this; sure, not everything is a hit, but never could his passion for cinema, bravery and humanity, be more on show than with 'Life Of Pi'.  He has done what was said to be impossible, taken a book that should never have translated to cinema, and not only made a successful film, but made the all-round best spectacular to hit the big screen since Nolan's 'Inception'!  A loss at the Oscars for its visuals and adaption for screen, at the very least, would be a sin!  Regardless of one's reaction to the movie, Ang Lee may well have created his masterpiece. 

At cinemas now!


Catch if you lke:  Cast Away, The Fountain


  1. Great review! I am intrigued by the film as the book is great. Thanks for your take on it!

  2. My film of the year so far; there's some tought competition I have yet catch, but I wouldn't be surprise if it remains as such. Do bear in mind I have yet to read it, but I intend to. It's a beautiful piece of work in every way; it blew me away.

  3. Very well written review that actually conveys some of the brilliance of the film. Best film I have watched in a very long time, I left with a real feeling of calmness and I was very moved. I loved that you can take what you want from it and that for different people that will be different things. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.