Life Of Pi (2012)

Life Of PiBullied through primary school because his name sounds like “pissing”, Piscine Molitor Patel (Saruj Sharma) takes matters into his own hands by changing his name to Pi on the first day of secondary school. A practicing Christian, Hindu and Muslim, he also has a tumultuous home-life thanks to his strictly atheist parents. When his father’s zoo business is put under pressure by a land dispute with the Indian government, Pi is uprooted from Pondicherry and shipped with the animals to Canada. Their journey is doomed, however, and Pi is soon shipwrecked at sea with only an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger left for company.

Based on Yann Martel’s Man Booker prize-winning novel, the supposedly unfilmable Life Of Pi, Ang Lee’s latest always had its work cut out for it. With so much of  the narrative taking  place  in its stranded hero’s head, the demands of  effects-heavy 3D cinema  were  in stark contrast to not only the introverted source material but Lee’s own independent filmmaking. While Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution have attracted acclaim, the director’s last special effect — 2003’s Hulk — is not considered one of his strongest efforts.

Thankfully, Lee and screenwriter David Magee have more than done justice to Martel’s masterpiece, creating one of the most profound and downright prolific films of the year. Not only do the filmmakers capture the essence of the source novel — an incredible text which pondered everything from faith to religion to nature — but they use state of the art technologies and techniques to bring the surrealist situations and spiritualist splendor to life on the big screen.

It’s been something of a watershed year for 3D, with The Amazing Spider-man, Dredd and Rise Of The Guardians each putting the format to excellent use over the last twelve months. Nevertheless, Lee’s own usage stands out, his manipulations of depth and perspective producing some of the most spellbinding images not just in 2012 but in the history of cinema. Whether its a swimmer apparently backstroking through the air, the sinking of the Patel’s ship or an assault by flying fish, these are not visuals that you are likely to forget any time soon.

It is the filmmakers’ realisation of Richard Parker that is Life Of Pi‘s real marvel. Despite the film’s PG rating, this is no child-friendly big cat. Never has a CGI character felt so real or alive, particularly one for which there exists a frame of reference. In one early scene, Pi’s father attempts to teach him about the circle of life, yet it is one of the most tense and genuinely unnerving scenes that you are ever likely to see. This is a beast that you respect, that you fear and, through Pi himself, which you eventually grow to love.

Even with such technical wizardry, however, the film still sinks or swims with its human lead. While Irrfan Khan makes the most of the film’s framing device (and youngsters Ayush Tandon and Gautam Belur convince entirely during the various flashbacks), it is newcomer Suraj Sharma to whom Life Of Pi truly belongs. On his own for most of the film save for a few props and sheets and sheets of greenscreen, the actor delivers a powerhouse performance as poor Pissing Patel, stranded at sea for what might well be the rest of his life. For all of his sea-set suffering, however, it is a scene in which he simply recounts a story that best showcases his considerable talents.

At its outset, Pi tells a struggling writer about a story that will not only cure his writers block but will also make him believe in God. While this might be too tall an ask for one single film, Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi will no doubt make you believe in pretty much everything else, be it cinema, storytelling or Saruj Sharma.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to Life Of Pi (2012)

  1. Pingback: Films of the Year – 2012 « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: December 2012 – I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake « popcornaddict

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