Right after I went out of the teather watching this film, I tweeted, "I have just watched one of the best films of this year". "Life of Pi" was spectacular because of not only the stunning 3D use in this film, but also—especially—the story. It's a miraculous achievement in cinematography and, I'm pretty sure, an outstanding work of sophisticated visual effects. David Magee, adapting from the similarly-titled best-selling novel written by Yann Martel, wrote the screenplay and Ang Lee, the award-winning director who brought "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", brought it to big screen in a very artistic way.
The story centers on a character named Piscine Molitor Patel, shortened as Pi Patel (old character played by Irrfan Khan, teenage character played by Suraj Sharma), a son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry, India. The film begins when Old Pi Patel was approached by a local writer (played by Rafe Spall) who was interested to write Pi's experience into a book. Then, as the flashback started, Pi told his magical, life-changing adventure in his teenage: drifting on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with the other survivals—a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and, the most fearsome, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker—after the tragic shipwreck happened to him and his family on their trip from India to Canada to sell all his zoo animals due to a financial crisis.
"Above all... it is important not to lose hope." - Pi Patel
In the first place, "Life of Pi" didn't state itself as a simple story of survival or even a friendship between human and animals. It heavily dealt with spirituality, which I consider as the main plot rather than the surviving-on-the-sea-with-a-tiger part. It is described that Pi was raised by a pragmatic-minded dad (played by Adil Hussain) and a religious Hindi mom (played by Tabu). Full of curiosity, Young Pi found his own path to know God by choosing to believe in multiple religious views. That said, when he started recounting his adventure on the sea to the local writer, he referred his unbelievable experience as a story that will not only awe him, but also make him believe in God. The films opened and closed with the same idea. Furthermore, the ending itself is not as simple as you think. Some may call it a twist, but I’d like to call it as an open end, which left you to interpret the meaning of the whole film by yourself. I don’t want to spoil it here.
“Life of Pi” is, again, a miraculous mix of great cinematography and visual effect. Do you think Suraj Sharma really did his acting on the boat with a real Bengal tiger? No, he didn’t. The tiger scene was an alternating use between real tiger and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The bioluminescent sea, the jumping whale, the colony of meerkat, the beautiful reflection of sky on sea surface... all CGI. When some people may think it as a madness implying artificiality or ingenuine artistry, I prefer to see it as a good use of current technology to be applied on such a powerful story. It reflects beauty for a more largely highlighted topic of spirituality; a very good mix that resembles a perfect capability of bringing a moving and life-changing potentiality for its viewers. In the other side, Suraj Sharma, selected from about 3000 casting contestants for the leading role all around India, made a star debut by bringing genuine acting and characterization for teenager Pi.
As the story took the extreme point of human experience to teach us about life, in the end it seceded itself from being too judgmental and all-know by giving the viewers an opportunity of introspection. That is why, while the film centers a lot on Pi, the film has a word “Life” in its title instead of just “Pi”: it’s not about Pi, it’s about life. It's about hope, it's about surviving, and, far more than those all, it's about our unfinished search of an omnipotent power above us. Oh I’m pretty sure this will enliven next year’s Academy Award race. “Life of Pi” is a tremendous package of stunning visual and solid story, and it is certainly not one that you could miss. Watch it in 3D.
▲ Great mix of stunning visual and solid, moving story
▼ CGI, CGI everywhere, may imply artificiality
LIFE OF PI | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2012 RATING Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril RUNTIME 127 min GENRE Adventure, Drama CAST Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Rafe Spall WRITER Yann Martel (novel), David Magee (screenplay) DIRECTOR Ang Lee IMDB RATING 8.4/10 (to date) METACRITIC 78/100 (Generally Favorable) (to date) ROTTEN TOMATOES 87% (Certified Fresh) (to date) MORE INFO