With so many action and adventure films in the cinema at this time of year, it’s nice to find one that provides the film-goer with both those things and then, if you’ll forgive the pun, a boatload more. Life of Pi is more of a journey than an adventure though, in a literal and metaphorical sense.
Put simply, it’s the story of a 16-year-old boy who finds himself shipwrecked and floating at sea with just a hungry Bengal tiger for company. However, the themes of religion and belief that it presents makes Life of Pi an incredibly refreshing piece of film. Don’t let those themes put you off – as well as being just challenging enough to stay engaging, it’s a great cinematic feat. The CGI, upon which it relies heavily, is absolutely seamless. The tiger itself is so realistic that it’s hard to believe it’s not actually real; the 3D lends itself perfectly to the claustrophobic setting as it claws viciously out of the screen.
The story is told through flashbacks, cutting to the modern day as Irrfan Khan’s older Pi tells his story to a novelist (Rafe Spall). The script is so well written that half the time you don’t realise that what you’re actually watching is an intellectual RE lesson that lets you decide how you want to interpret the symbolism hidden in the story. It gives you every thing you need to make an informed decision about the power of God but stays light and is peppered with humour.
Suraj Sharma, who plays the young Pi, has done an astonishing job with his role especially when you note that in all the scenes with the tiger (practically the entire film), he was acting to nothing. This is from a guy who had never acted before and only auditioned for the role after he was promised a free sandwich from Subway. His performance is raw, emotional and brilliant.
Ang Lee’s adaption of Yann Martel’s ‘unfilmable’ novel is nominated for eleven Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, including those for Best Picture. It’ll be a surprise if it doesn’t win at least half of those. Life of Pi is an intelligent piece of cinema that hurls you into that lifeboat with the tiger and ultimately leaves you feeling all the better for it.
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