Life of Pi is one of the most thematically faithful book adaptations that you will ever see. Because of that, it is a truly wonderful movie. Ang Lee, the director, needs recognition of this accomplishment.
Here’s a trailer:
Released on November 21, 2012
Written by David Magee, based on the bestselling novel by Yann Martel
Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Tabu, Adil Hussein, Rafe Spall, Vibish Sivakumar, Shravanthi Sainath, and Gerard Depardieu
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Pi is a young lad living in Pondicherry, India, with his father, an atheist zookeeper (Hussein), his religious mother (Tabu), and his brother Ravi (Sivakumar). Just as Pi is falling in love with the beautiful Anandi (Sainath), his family decides to leave the rapidly deteriorating area and move to Canada, where they will sell the zoo animals and start a new life. One of the animals they take on the freighter with them is a magnificent Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (due to some bad paperwork).
During the journey, the freighter sinks and Pi is the only human survivor, winding up on a 26 foot lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a sad orangutan, and the tiger, Richard Parker. Soon, it is down to Pi and Richard Parker, who is not a tame tiger at all. Pi makes a raft that he ties to the boat, leaving the boat to Richard Parker.
Thus commences a journey that takes Pi and his unlikely companion across much ocean and through many harrowing adventures that test Pi and his determination to survive, as well as his belief in the divine. All of this story is told by an adult Pi to an aspiring writer– so we know that Pi will ultimately survive.
If you have read Martel’s excellent book, you have nothing to fear; the movie Life of Pi adheres to the wonder, awe, fantasy, and warmth of the book and effectively asks the same questions, leaving many of them similarly unanswered.
What’s lovely about Life of Pi starts with just how wonderfully the opening scenes establish a movie that will transport the viewer into multiple exotic places- the most exotic of which is the mind, heart, and imagination of the young Pi. Pi is a human without guile, devoted to his family, his worship, and later to the lovely Anandi.
The movie proceeds from the light, heartfelt, colorful opening scenes to a story about a boy who fights inexplicably hard, after losing everything, to survive. It would seem that, even after losing everything of value to you, life is still something valuable. It would also seem that sharing even a terribly hard existence with any kind of companion, makes said existence more bearable.
Visually arresting, deeply felt, fantastically told, Life of Pi is very intense at times and is heartbreakingly good. It’s a far better and enjoyable film than Lincoln, which also plumbs the depths of what is possible in film today. Ang Lee’s touch is near perfect. Add to Lee’s excellent guiding hand some flawless performances from Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma and some extraordinary computer work with a tiger, and you have one of the best movies of the year.
It helps that anyone could see this movie and come away a little changed, a little better, and far more appreciative of imagination, story, and family.
Content warnings: A few very intense scenes with a tiger.
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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