Watching Life of Pi (Pi) a line from Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday came to mind - "There are no atheists in foxholes." Truly harrowing experiences can be soothed by turning to faith (in a religious sense) and there aren't aren’t really any situations more terrifying than being stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, when your only company is a Bengal Tiger. It takes the pedigree of an Academy award winning director like Ang Lee to have the audacity to tackle what looked like a seemingly impossible literary adaption of Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi. Martel's story (adapted by screenwriter Richard Magee) outlines the life but more specifically the life defining event of Pi (Suraj Sharma/Irrfan Khan) who while travelling to Canada from India with his family and their Zoo menagerie has to survive their cargo ship being battered into submission by a horrific storm. Pi is the lone human survivor on a life boat with a Tiger and must dig deep into the recesses of his eclectic faith to stay alive.
Lee's vision of Pi is magnificent. The colour is electric and the iconic and stunningly sublime shots are littered throughout. Whether it's magnificent underwater shots of a cargo ship plunging to the depths of the ocean or the infinite glacial look of an ocean, Lee's stunning composition is omnipresent. However Life of Pi's technical wizardry for the animal stars of the film (with a combination of mechanics and CGI) is so wonderfully realised that in a moment that when Lee takes you up close and personal with a snarling Tiger you’re not distracted by critiquing the quality of its realism -instead it authentically taps into those primal 'fight or flight' impulses and make for chilling viewing.
Suraj Sharma, as the young Pi, does a magnificent job of believably absorbing the harrowing physical torture without his infectious faith (quirkily: in a plethora of religions simultaneously) and hope being extinguished. And it's no mean feat to emote sincerely without actors or real animals to play off of. It's a physically testing transformative performance for the young unknown actor that's catapulted him into the spotlight.
The minor flaws of the film lie in the economy of the film's opening. It feels far too bound with exposition via dialogue that could have been explained with deft direction.
Life of Pi is a beautiful allegory about living with faith in the face on unfathomable tests. Lee has fashioned a vision of Pi's journey that surpasses the projections that your imagination could possibly conjure reading the novel.
Directed by: Ang Lee Written by: David Magee (screenplay), Yann Martel (novel) Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.