Review: Life Of Pi
The Taiwanese-American filmmaker with the Midas touch, Ang Lee can never be accused of making the same film twice.
Determined, as always, to extend the range of his skills beyond such memorable movies as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Lust, Caution (2007), the Academy Award winning director (Brokeback Mountain) consolidates his reputation as a versatile auteur with this adaptation of the 2001 bestseller by Yann Martel.
A visual fiesta which makes exceptionally effective use of 3D, Life Of Pi is an emotionally stirring, immersive experience.
Interestingly, various A-list directors of the calibre of Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien Resurrection) and even M Night Shyamalan (Signs) had sought to film Martel's page turner. Commendably, his backers took a chance on Ang Lee to helm the long-gestating project. The gamble has paid off and then some.
A detail-oriented director, Lee hooks the viewer from the get-go on the eponymous protagonist's story of survival. Told in flashback by the middle-aged Pi, (portrayed with characteristic assurance by Irrfan Khan), the film's opening segment unfolds at a languorous pace.
After deciding to sell their zoo in Pondicherry and relocate to Canada, an Indian couple (Tabu-Adil Hussain) board a freighter with their two children and a few remaining animals they hope to sell in North America.
Tragedy strikes when a storm sinks their ship in the Pacific. The focus now shifts to Pi as a teenager. The 16-year-old (Delhi-based newcomer Suraj Sharma making an impressive acting debut) is the sole human survivor. Orphaned and adrift in a lifeboat, Pi is hurtled into an epic seafaring adventure.
He is forced to share space with an injured zebra, an orangutan, a manic hyena and a fearsome tiger, all of whom have also found refuge aboard the lifeboat.
The director has said that "my main theme is the innocent heart. It's in all my movies".
From a young age Pi, who was brought up in a Hindu household, also explored various other religions including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. His compassion for all of God's creatures is soon put to the test.
He has to summon all his courage and faith to survive the 227-day ordeal at sea with the tiger as his only companion, the other stowaways having already devoured one another. Real animals were used in a few scenes but the tiger is, for the most, part an astonishingly life-like CGI creation.
Claudio Miranda's tantalising cinematography and the dramatic background music score by Mychael Danna further enhance the wondrous visuals. A tale full of sound, fury and state-of-the-art special effects, Life Of Pi is a one-of-a-kind dazzler. Oscars ahoy!