Life of Pi

Life of Pi (2012) is a visually awe-inspiring, dazzling tale of profound beauty, winning 4 well-deserved Oscars, the most of any film this year, including for visual effects and cinematography.

Based on the 2001 Booker prize winning novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is a fable of faith and survival as told to a Canadian author by the adult protagonist from India, Pi Patel, now a professor living with his family in Toronto (in the book), Montreal (in the film).  

During a trip to India, the frustrated writer was told of an extraordinary tale that will make him believe in God. To hear this tale he must seek out Mr. Patel, played by Irrfan Khan, who was also seen in The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and ask him about his fateful journey across the Pacific Ocean.

The movie is a breathtaking digital achievement and although some of the animal behavior may be questionable, I never questioned the reality of what I was seeing. Life of Pi has definitely raised the standard of what can be done in films with CG animals. Visually the film goes from a sepia postcard, jungle book image of Pondicherry in the 1950s, to a glittering aqua blue seascape in glowing 3D.

As a child growing up at a zoo in the Botanical Gardens of Pondicherry, India, Pi experiments with and learns about various religions. His father, who is the zoo keeper there, decides one day to move his family and all the zoo animals to Canada by boat. But the journey goes horribly wrong when a storm sinks the cargo ship taking everyone including all the zoo creatures with it except for Pi, and a few wounded animals. 

This story was thought to be unfilmable for many years due to the main characters being a Bengal tiger and a 16 year old boy drifting in a lifeboat on the open sea. Also in the lifeboat are a zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. These animals will eventually succumb to their basic instincts until only the boy and the tiger are left. But the story is an allegory of human behavior, survival and faith. 

Much like Cast Away (2000), the film focuses on how one person survives while battling against the elements and to keep his own sanity. It’s a gripping story that’s difficult to believe if you weren’t seeing it with your own eyes. But no matter how unbelievable the situations that transpire, there is nothing in the film that looks fake or unconvincing, thanks to some of the most complex and stunning photography and special effects ever created. 

Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee, known for directing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Brokeback Mountain (2005), for which he won his first Oscar, is extremely faithful to the book and won his 2nd Oscar for directing this movie. He has managed to create a visually stunning film that was mostly created with the aid of computers using a seamless blend of both real animals, and CG animation that gives the illusion of total reality. 

Among some of the more dreamlike and surreal visions of the ever weakening stranded boy on a lifeboat, constantly struggling to stay alive and keep from being eaten by his hungry companion, while also managing to keep it alive, are his encounters with flying fish, glowing jelly fish, majestic whales and an immense floating carnivorous mangrove island, inhabited by thousands of meerkats, where he briefly finds refuge from the punishing ocean. 

This extraordinary film can be enjoyed by all ages and will make you sit up and wonder at the spectacle of how it was accomplished. 

JP

11 comments:

Laura Sherman said...

Sounds like a great film. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and creating an intriguing review. It makes me want to see it!

Jon Jefferson said...

I have wondered about the premise of this one. I like the touch of fantasy to this ,"fish" story.

Granny-Guru said...

I loved this movie and it was my personal favorite to win Best Director and Best Cinematograpy, which it did. Highly recommend for families. Beautifully shot fantasy.

Granny-Guru said...

I loved this movie and it was my personal favorite to win Best Director and Best Cinematograpy, which it did. Highly recommend for families. Beautifully shot fantasy.

journojohnson said...

Shame I missed this one. Would still like to see it and the experience can only really be replicated in 3D from what I've heard.

Corinne Schmitt said...

I wish I had seen this in the theater. I avoided it because I typically don't enjoy movies after I have read the book. Your review quells that fear for me in this case. I guess I'll have to catch it on video.

Darlene Nemeth said...

Thanks for sharing your beautifully written review. It sounds like something I would enjoy watching.

Susan Cooper said...

I loved Avatar and so this is on my must see list. Your description about how with the special affects and photography makes it all come to life and makes it seem real has made it even more so for me. Thanks for the review. :-)

Curiousss said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but looking forward to it. Thanks for the great review.

MK Slagel said...

I have been very curious about this film considering I think it is always intriguing how movies are produced based solely on one character. It sounds good and I look forward to seeing it not just because of its plot but because I love watching movies after I have read the book. The hard part about watching a movie post reading however is the difference in plot that often disappoints me. It has been awhile since I read the book though so I'm sure I won't be able to pinpoint details that are wrong.

KWade said...

I really want to see this movie, it looks great! I never really got the gist of the plot but this sounds like an interesting storyline.