Rugger Review: Life of Pi
Summary: A young man who survives a shipwreck in the middle of the ocean finds himself on a voyage of self-discovery and adventure whilst stranded aboard a life raft with one other survivor; a ferocious Bengal tiger.
Published in 2001, Yann Martel’s Booker-Prize winning novel Life of Pi was immediately deemed un-filmable.
A decade later, after three top directors have come and gone (M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet), visionary director Ang Lee finally cracked the secret to filming the un-filmable – an unknown lead and 3D. Make no mistake, Life of Pi could not have been made before now.
For while the novel throws up all kinds of obstacles for turning words to images – a massive shipwreck involving dozens of zoo animals, a boy trapped on a boat with a Bengal Tiger, and the fact that most of it takes place at sea – it actually turns out to be perfectly suited to Lee’s artistic style of shooting.
They say you should never work with kids, or first time actors, or animals, or on water. Yet here, Lee works with all four and it is to his testament as a director that he not only succeeds in making a worthy adaptation of the novel, but a beautifully realised one as well.
Life of Pi tells the story of a young boy called Piscine (amusing anecdote behind his name which I won’t spoil here) who moves from India to Canada with his family when they cannot afford to run their zoo any longer.
While onboard the freighter taking them to Canada, the ship sinks in a storm throwing Pi and several of the animals from his zoo into the ocean.
Scrambling aboard a life raft, Pi finds himself in the not ideal company of several animals, including a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Much in the way that Gollum was the stand out C.G.I. character of the last decade, Richard Parker is so fully realised that it is hard to tell where the real tiger (4 of them were used in production) ends and the digital one begins.
Not to be overlooked however, is the debut performance of Suraj Sharma who plays Pi. After beating over 200 Indian boys for the part, he doesn’t disappoint in his first starring role.
Raised as a Hindu, the younger Pi becomes infatuated with all forms of religion and follows Christianity and Islam as well as Hindu.
It’s no secret that Life of Pi is about God, and whether or not we think he exists doesn’t detract from following Pi’s heart-wrenching journey as he firstly puts all his faith in God for allowing him to live before slowly beginning to doubt his faith.
Being up against a hungry tiger and the dangers of the sea, Sharma steals the show with his powerful performance which is sure to see him propelled into the limelight further than he thought possible.
It is with great credit to him that despite the wonderful effects and some fabulous set pieces (an island full of meerkats, a whale full of glowing jellyfish) we never lose sight of Pi’s soul-searching journey to save not only himself, but his shipmate.
Final Verdict: Lee deserves plenty of kudos not only for filming the supposedly un-filmable, but for creating a wonderful adventure story filled with glorious special effects which, along with the subtle, vibrant use of 3D, breathes life into a tale the whole family can enjoy.
Star Rating: 4/5
* Review by Stephen Connolly