Life Of Pi * * * * *

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Director: Ang Lee.
Screenplay: David Magee.
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tandon, Guatam Belur, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu.

The amount of times that director Ang Lee has delivered fresh material is testament to his bravery and skill as a filmmaker. He pushed genre conventions with Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain“, delved into the prose of Jane Austin with “Sense and Sensibility“, as well as, a meticulous take on Rick Moody’s “The Ice Storm” – and these are only his adaptations. He has challenged numerous genre’s from martial-arts (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“) through comic-book (“Hulk“) to war and romance (“Lust, Caution“), among others. This time, Lee attempts an adaptation of Yann Martel’s ‘unfilmable’, bestselling novel and it’s another remarkable achievement.

On a huge freighter, leaving Pondicherry, India for Canada, a zoo keeping family are going to sell their animals and start a new life. Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) is the zoo keeper’s son and after the ship is sunk in a storm, he finds himself adrift on the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat. He’s not alone, though. He shares the boat with a Zebra, a Hyaena, an Orang-utan and “Richard Parker” – a 450-pound Bengal Tiger. Somehow, he must find a way to survive.

As the film opens we are given glimpses of wild animals roaming around their habitat. Although subtly handled, it works an absolute treat in establishing it’s use of 3D. I’m not a fan of this new viewing gimmick we’ve had thrust upon us but in the hands of Lee it is used to it’s best and fullest potential. Visually it’s astounding (and it only gets better as the film progresses) and along with Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo“, it’s the best use of 3D I’ve seen yet. After this brief introduction, Lee gets down to the story. He builds slowly; introducing his protagonist’s curiosity of life and religious beliefs and does so with a lightness of touch and humour that makes him instantly endearing. Cleverly, Yann Martel’s story makes a point of incorporating many religions. Our protagonist doesn’t follow one particular belief but encompasses many, which is very important for the film to work on it’s spiritual level and not ostracise the audience. It’s these very beliefs that are questioned when the story of survival takes place and it’s here that Lee pulls an absolute mastery in his use of CGI. He skilfully combines the beauty and ferocity of our natural world and even though his palette is vast, he focuses it, mainly, in limited space.
When getting down to the bare bones, this a story about life, spirituality and metaphysics but ultimately, it’s a story about storytelling itself and the infinite possibilities that lie therein. It manages that rare balance of being both literal and symbolic and Lee and screenwriter David Magee’s biggest achievement is immersing the audience into this odyssey and allowing a freedom of choice in how it can be perceived.
Ang Lee has always been a director that has commanded respect but he has surpassed himself here. This is one of the most challenging book-to-screen adaptations ever made and it’s also one of the best.

Wondrous and awe inspiring storytelling is a rarity these days but this film certainly achieves that. Not that I ever really lost it but it has a vibrancy and depth that reaffirms my belief in the magic of cinema. Quite simply, it’s a film that’s bold and breathtakingly, beautiful.

Mark Walker

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50 Responses to “Life Of Pi * * * * *”

  1. The magic of cinema. I think the last time I truly felt that was Star Wars as a kid. Looking forward to seeing this.

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  2. Nice review. I loved this film too, and the use of 3-D was fantastic. It’s good to see Ang Lee back in top form.

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  3. Ok, ok fine! You’ve now convinced me to check this out. I’m not a big fan of Ang Lee and this film just didn’t appeal to me at all. I just haven’t been able to muster any interest or excitement for it. But now I feel I need to check it out. Good stuff bro.

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    • It’s definitely worth a look bro. You must see it on the big screen though. I know what you mean about Lee. I’ve not enjoyed everything he’s done but you can’t fault his ability to change genres so easily. I shall await your reluctant viewing (and reviewing) of this πŸ˜‰

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  4. Nicely put, buddy. It is some seriously awe inspriring stuff! I still need to straighten out my feelings about the ending, but at the very least, that’s kept me thinking about it long after I saw it! Good review, I agree with maxing out the stars!! πŸ˜€

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    • You maxed it out too man? I must swing by your review again. Outstanding film. I’m not sure what you mean by the ending and I don’t want to discuss it in detail as it may spoil it for others but if you mean the revelation of the story, I thought that was brilliant.

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  5. meeradarjiyr1 Says:

    I thought this film was stunning! Absolute masterpiece! great review

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  6. Not perfect by any means, but with the outstanding visuals at-hand here, it’s hard to think otherwise. Nice review Mark.

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  7. Glad you liked it. It was (I think) number 6 on my list of last year. Glad you mentioned Hugo too. That and Life of Pi are the two films (non-animated) that I think are BETTER with 3D, something I otherwise kind of hate.

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    • Yeah, I’m not a fan of 3D either Nick. I don’t think it brings much to a film but when it’s done properly like this or Hugo it can be a very useful tool. I don’t think I’ve seen your list from the best films of last year. I’ll swing and try and find it. Cheers man!

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  8. The visual effects in this movie are unbelievable. Why can’t they ALL look this good! I did enjoy the book more but I never thought anyone would be able to adapt it as well as Lee did. Such a talented filmmaker.

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  9. I was initially very skeptical about this one, but saw it in 3D tonight, and gosh was I impressed. Some scenes are just…out of this world-beautiful. The film is definitely a must-see for everyone, coz it’s simply unforgettable. I am not too sure about the best picture, but I give it Oscars cinematography/visual effects awards hands down (I consider it above any other film there in that sense).

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    • It’s hard for me to comment on the best film category as I’ve yet to catch up with a few of them but this is certainly deserving of it’s nomination. I’m inclined to give that award to Beasts of the Southern but it’s hard to choose between them. It’s doubtful that any other film could be as stunning as this though. Thanks again, for stopping by πŸ™‚

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      • Well, I don’t think ‘Beasts of the Southern’ is nominated in either ‘visual effects’ or ‘cinematography’ categories, that’s why I picked ‘The Life of Pi’. Though on the face of it, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is probably a better film overall. And not at all, I enjoy reading your reviews, they are always fair.

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      • I would agree, Beasts of the Southern Wild has been the biggest surprise of the year for me. It’s one of those films that could easily have slipped under the radar but, not only am I glad that I caught it but I’m glad that many others have as well. And to top it all off, it’s getting some Oscar attention. It’s great news. Thanks again for stopping by and for your kind words. πŸ™‚

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  10. Lot of love out there for this film…

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  11. What a beautiful review! I generally don’t like 3D — I find it distracting, and it makes me feel a bit drunk. πŸ™‚ But I keep hearing that this movie is worth seeing in 3D. I am looking forward to it.

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    • Thank you! I’m the same with regards to 3D. Normally I’ll avoid it but this is certainly worth the effort. It’s the best use of it so far and the film is just gorgeous.

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  12. It’s certainly a beautiful film, and I agree the 3D was very good here, not distracting at all. I just finished my quick write-up on this actually, what a coincidence that I stop over here and saw you reviewing the same thing πŸ˜€

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  13. Seeing this on Tuesday before it leaves the cinema. Need to get it done as it is one of the biggies at the oscars, and a 5 star review means I am very much looking forward to it.

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  14. Absolutely one of the best films of 2012. I must admit, I’m a little surprised you loved it so much, but I’m very happy that you did!

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  15. Spot on Mark, totally agree. It was one of my highlights of last year and proves that 3D in the right hands can be done well. Fortunately, it wasn’t just style over substance either. It looks great but also has a really thought provoking story and messages. However, I just don’t know if it will work so well on repeated viewing if the visuals can’t match the experience of seeing it in a cinema.

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    • Cheers Chris. Glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as me. It had a bit of everything and that’s no bad thing in my eyes. That’s a good point you make, it may not hold up on a smaller screen but I’ll still be giving it the chance in the future. Great movie!

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  16. It was a beautiful movie although I’m not as big a fan of it as everyone else. It’s well made and I thought the story was interesting, but I never got fully invested into it all..

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    • I’ve heard a few people say that now Nostra. Personally, I was swept up in it and enjoyed it’s depth, sense of humour and it’s visuals. It’s definitely a real highlight from 2012 and stood up to my high expectations of it.

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  17. I was exactly on the same page as you. This gave me a reminder of what movie magic is, why I’m going to theatres in the first place.

    I’ve spent the last days “defending” it to other bloggers who didn’t love it the way I did, both IRL and on a podcast. It was lovely to read your thoughts on it and get a reminder of that I’m not the only one to love it.

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    • It would seem that we are in the same camp again Jessica. Such a beautifully handled film. I’ve heard a few people with lesser opinions of it but I’m definitely not one of them. This IS the magic of movies and it’s great to see that such a difficult story to adapt can be done so well on screen. It gives hope that many other “unfilmable” novels could have their day on the big screen after all. Thanks for dropping by πŸ™‚

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  18. Very eloquent review. My favorite line: “immersing the audience into this odyssey and allowing a freedom of choice in how it can be perceived.” I stopped and thought about the statement after reading it, and I agree.

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  19. I don’t entirely agree with your viewpoint (the last scene bugged too much to be five stars) but the way you describe this film is incredible. Great review. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Chris. Glad to see you stop by and your kind words are much appreciated. Your not the first to have problems with the ending but it still worked me. 5 stars may be a slight bit generous but it’s such a visual achievement, I couldn’t give it anything less.

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  20. Really glad you liked this. It’s my favourite book and my favourite film from 2012. It’s visually breathtaking and just impressed me on every level.

    Fantastic review by the way!

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  21. Thoroughly enjoyed watching this film, there were so many beautiful shots I could stare at for days. I actual do stare at them from time to time, because a compilation of favorite shots is currently functioning as my screensaver. The adaptations of traditional Indian music the film offered during some of the most magnificent shots was very good as well.

    However, I was a bit annoyed by all the interruptions where the film would cut back to Canada and the writer would ask obvious questions. The worst part was where he explained his interpretation of the story. For me, this was a way too obvious way of forcing the possible meaning of a film on the spectator.

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    • You’re absolutely right. You could hang this on your wall and never tire of looking at it. Such a beautiful piece of cinema.

      I didn’t mind the interview scenes too much and also the interpretation was a little too obvious but again, I thought it was slipped in there just fine. Although, it would definitely have been more thought provoking without the explanation.

      Thanks for swinging by and for commenting. πŸ™‚

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  22. Thanks for posting this great review, I thought that the effects in this movie were beyond amazing!

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