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The Life of Pi (2012) Reviewed By Jay

United States, 18 September 2012


Jay´s Review

There are times I am out of step with popular trends: I was urged to read Yann Martel's enormously popular novel while it was on the best-seller list. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I did not like it, in fact I disliked it! To me, the story of an Indian boy who is shipwrecked with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger in a lifeboat is a bit much.

With the astonishing Ang Lee as the director ("The Wedding Banquet," "Sense and Sensibility," "Brokeback Mountain," "Hulk," and "The Ice Storm"), things started looking up. As you can see from a sampling of his work, this much-acclaimed artist never stays with one genre, never copies other filmmakers and never plays it safe. He rarely makes a PG film and I think this is his first 3D project.

He did wonders with his cast:

  • Suraj Sharma (in his first film role!) is Pi, an adventurous, inquisitive youngster. He has settled on being a vegetarian Hindu Muslim who embraces Catholic guilt, studies the Jewish Kabbalah, and wants to be baptized. He is convinced that religion is a big house with many rooms.
  • Irrfan Khan ("Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Amazing Spider-Man") is the adult Pi, who tells his spellbinding tale to a would-be author.
  • Rafe Spall ("Prometheus") is our incredulous listener, The Writer, who speaks for us as he expresses all the confusion, dismay and doubt that we in the audience naturally feel.
  • The tiger who plays Richard Parker is a seamless combination of real life and computer generated images. Brilliant!

3D is rarely used this well. The opening credit sequence that takes us through a small municipal zoo in India is a marvel, and the scenes in clear water are breathtaking: you can't tell water from air, so things seem to be floating above the earth. Kudos to Cinematographer Claudio Miranda for the dazzling effects! (We LOVED the flying fish!)

The continuity is consistently good: as time goes by in the lifeboat, our hero and our tiger are visibly thinner, the tiger's teeth become greenish and both of them have dry unhealthy hair. The shipwreck is tough to see, but we don't have to watch carnivores kill their lunch, and when Pi finally brains a fish, he weeps and apologizes to it. Don't bring toddlers, but from ten years old and up, I think a child can handle it.

In my opinion, this was much better than the book! (But I still hate the island! You'll see what I mean.)

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