Life of Pi
5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Ang Lee
scr David Magee
prd Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark
with Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Gerard Depardieu, Andrea Di Stefano, Shravanthi Sainath, Elie Alouf, Ayush Tandon, Mohd Abbas Khaleeli, Vibish Sivakumar
release US 21.Nov.12, UK 20.Dec.12
12/India Fox 2h07
Life of Pi
Safe distance: Sharma and Richard Parker

khan spall depardieu

32nd Shadows Awards

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Life of Pi More a work of art than a blockbuster, Ang Lee has created a dramatic thriller that grips us tightly due to characters, ideas and imagery, rather than its plot. It's a remarkable achievement, not just because Yann Martel's award-winning novel has long been considered unfilmable, but because this Hollywood-financed film is so delicately thoughtful, provocative and moving.

Pi Patel (Sharma) grew up on a zoo owned by his parents (Hussain and Tabu) in India. When hard times hit, they join the animals on a cargo ship bound for Canada. But a cataclysmic storm leaves sole-survivor Pi in a lifeboat with a zebra, orang-utan, hyena and a fierce Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi survives this long ordeal because of the challenge of coexisting with a creature that wants to eat him. And as a teen who has adopted Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, he believes that his experience proves the existence of God.

The events unfold in flashback as the older Pi (Khan) recounts it to a writer (Spall) who is planning a book about the incident. Inserting Martel into the story is a subtle device that opens the themes to us, letting us see Pi's experiences in the context of his childhood as a perceptive boy who sees life and religion reflected in man's relationship to animals. But none of this is overstated: it's framed as questions and observations that let us do the thinking.

Meanwhile, Lee repeatedly wows us with his directing choices, which never take the easy route through a scene. He throws us right in, sometimes giving us a God's-eye view that takes our breath away as the transparent sea reflects clouds or stars, or reveals the teeming life underneath. It's as if Pi is travelling through the soul of nature, and we're right there with him, mesmerised by the epic beauty in a life-threatening situation.

Yes, this seamless film is a thing of beauty, with Claudio Miranda's striking cinematography set off by Mychael Danna's unobtrusive score, naturalistic acting and some mind-boggling effects. We can sometimes see that this is a digitally animated tiger, but as a character Richard Parker is so real that, like Pi, we're afraid to take our eyes off him. And like the novel, Magee's clever script lets the final thematic gut-punch float softly in the air where we can turn it over in our minds for years to come.

cert pg themes, violence 4.Dec.12

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