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Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Released 20 December 2012
Director Ang Lee

Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Ayan Khan, Mohd Abbas Khaleeli, Vibish Sivakumar, Rafe Spall, Gérard Depardieu
Writer(s) David Magee

Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark
Origin United States, China
Running Time 127 minutes
Genre Adventure, drama
Rating PG


They said it couldn't be done – that the spectacular and inspiring story from the book of the same name could not be transferable onto the big screen with the same passion and finesse. They were wrong. It takes a particular combination of things for a movie that focuses so much time on just one person to work. A Bengal tiger helps, but so too does a fantastic lead performance by Suraj Sharma, an emotionally engaging narrative and spectacular cinematography, enhanced by what perhaps will be a groundbreaking moment for 3D. Life of Pi manages to achieve all of this.

Now middle aged and living in a humble abode in Canada, the film starts with Pi setting the scene to a visiting novelist of his unbelievable journey from India to where he is now. Pi grew up in a zoo which his father owned and, inquisitive by nature, strove to learn as much as he could from different religions and beliefs. But when the family decided to sell the zoo and head to North America, shipping the animals with them, his life would be altered forever. En route, the ship hits a massive storm and sank, killing all aboard except Pi who managed to escape in a lifeboat. He is quickly joined by a zebra, orangutan, hyena and, most importantly, a Bengal tiger, who he forms the most the unlikeliest of relationships with as they go in search of land.

The film strikes a nice balance between Pi's early years growing up and his monumental effort to survive at sea. There was a danger that too much emphasis could have been placed on the latter which could have led to an alienation of audiences becoming bored at a stagnated social development. There is a point where the movie is perhaps a little too slow paced but it is fleeting, and any hint of a lack of involvement is quashed by a superb individual performance by Sharma. One scene in particular where he viciously attacks the will of God in the midst of a second storm is stunning.

And that word is just as appropriate to describe the cinematography, which will surely win a host of awards in the coming months. The entire visual setting is gripping but there are a couple of scenes that will make your jaw drop – I need not say more. This is helped by the clever use of 3D which doesn't rely on an in your face approach that has been the downfall of so many films in the last couple of years, but instead delivers a subtle, almost poetic enhancement.

Some people may find the overriding premise of religion and faith a little preachy and to be fair it can be. But it doesn't ruin what is an otherwise brilliant film and a perfect cinematic treat for movie fans this Christmas.

- David Caulfield