Review: LIFE OF PI

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)


An engaging story presented with gloriously beautiful visuals make this film a must see in the theater and in the 3D format.   Director Ang Lee follows in Martin Scorsese’s footsteps and utilizes 3D effects in a beautifully artistic manner, perhaps even more so as this film has a more surreal style to it.  Based on the novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi takes its protagonist on a treacherous coming of age journey which not only tests his faith, but also his will to survive.

Pi Patel has always had a fascination with various religious faiths. As a child of India, he has experienced the Hindi tradition through his mother (Tabu), but has also taken an interest in Christianity, Buddhism and Islam.  His father (Adil Hussain), a zookeeper and man of science, always strictly offered Pi more practical, real world teachings.  Because of political strife in India, Pi and his family travel overseas toward Canada.  While on the way, though, a storm sinks the ship casting Pi and some animals on a lifeboat out to sea.  Relying on his father’s teachings and using his own wits, Pi struggles to remain alive for several days until he can be rescued. It definitely is not an easy feat, especially with a predatory Bengal tiger aboard the lifeboat.

Visually stunning, and beautifully written, Life of Pi makes for an extraordinary cinematic experience.  Director Lee and writer David Magee present a story with intelligent humor, suspenseful and thrilling scenes and an abundance of heart.  As I stated above, director Lee, cinematographer Claudio Miranda and the effects crew do some tremendously gorgeous work in 3D and utilize it well to enhance the beauty in some of the more magical scenes and also use it effectively in the more harrowing scenes, especially those involving the tiger.  I feel that the slightly ambiguous ending left me somewhat unsatisfied and unclear of the writers’ intention with their story.  It feels like a story of faith in the face of catastrophe, but one could also interpret that faith is futile. I really do hate to be so vague, but to reveal more would be spoiling too much.

In addition to the lovely filmmaking, the cast deserves high praise as well. Four actors portray the character of Pi Patel in different stages of his life.  Irrfan Kahn (The Amazing Spider-Man) plays the adult Pi and serves as narrator of his awesome story.  Kahn displays a charming and sage grace in this role.  The teenage Pi is played by Suraj Sharma and offers some incredible work here.  He wonderfully takes the Pi character through the frightening and exciting journey and credibly exudes the emotions necessary for this role.  Much of the film rests on his shoulders as he portrays Pi during the scenes while he and the animals are alone at sea and Sharma pulls it off winningly. The child Pi is portrayed by two actors, Ayush Tandom and Gautam Belur.  These talented children are also superb at capturing the Pi character during his more precocious ages.

I will recommend this movie as a fine matinee for families with children ages 8 and up.  I think perhaps that the slower moments may bore younger audiences and that the more distressing scenes may be a bit too frightening.  I will also go on to state that I am sure that this more artistic film may not appeal to all audiences. Those who enjoy the work of Ang Lee and films with a descent script and artistic integrity shouldn’t miss this one and should pay the extra price to view it in 3D.

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