Movie Review: Life of Pi

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain

Rated PG-13 for emotional thematic content throughout and some scary action sequences throughout and peril, Running time 127 minutes, Adventure/Drama

Compare to: Cast Away (2000), Into the Wild (2007)

While the book that Life of Pi was originally deemed unfilmable when it was published in 2001, director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) has not only done it, but done a pretty good job of combing massive amounts of computer generated imagery and well delivered drama.

The movie didn’t blow me away as I’m reading it did with many critics, but even a feign interest in this could be worth your trip.

Piscine “Pi” Patel is on board a freighter ship with his family, making their way from India to Canada to start a new life after making sure all the animals from their former zoo have safely made passage to their buyer. Along the way across the Atlantic, a storm destroys the ship and leaves Pi stranded on a ship with a few animals but specifically, a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Pi’s journey began with leaving India but where it ends is anyone’s guess.

After watching Flight only a couple weeks ago, I didn’t think anyone would be able to beat, or even compare, to Roberts Zemeckis’ creation of a plane crash. The combination of CG and well acted players were everything special effects are meant for in film to begin with. It was all seamless and intense. There’s never a moment where the plane’s flaming turbines seemed to “clean” to be real or any actors felt too “Nicholas Cage” for the part. And so it was reasonable for me to think that nothing else could beat it.

But the sinking ship in Life of Pi has had me eat my written words.

It’s a strange and stirring at the same time. While we’re given the intensity of a 17 year striving to stay alive, find his family, and make it off the ship, we’re also given the bizarre images of the escaped zoo animal passengers running wild on board. The scene, like much of the movie, comes off much like a strange dream. I’ve read/heard certain directors and others involved in film (as well as viewers) bashing the use of CG in film, I imagine much of it attributing to it’s overuse or unnecessary use. But when used effectively, it gives way to help create films that go above and beyond what anyone ever thought possible in film. It allows writers to write in scenes that in earlier generations would have to be cut. Not for budgetary reasons mind you, but under the belief that it “couldn’t be filmed.” This film is proof that just anything could be filmed. Not only filmed, but inserted appropriately into a story that doesn’t involve Jedi or giant monsters and transforming robots.

The film also does a fine job at delivering well thought dialogue that speaks much more eloquently than many people in real life would attempt to convey. Thoughts about God, religion, man’s existence and nature are all discussed or examined here in one form another and seem to do so without any intentionally offensive connotations to be taken. It’s always appreciated when a movie can bring these topics to light without the creators putting their own spin on it. Last month’s Cloud Atlas is a great example of a movie that brings up universal themes that seem to stop just short of their own beliefs and make it clear that as “open minded” as they seem, everything is still seen through their own perspective of the topics they’re introducing. Not so with this one.

I never have, and possibly never will, follow any sort of film award ceremonies but wouldn’t be surprised if Life of Pi were to win or at least be nominated for something. It seems anytime Ang Lee decides to make a movie, he ends up taking a golden statue home. Except for the ’03 Hulk (ugh), but don’t quote me on that. The special effects weren’t terrible still. Any issues with this movie that may surface will most likely have to do with the film’s accidental preachiness that may be construed from it’s themes and ideas. It’s natural and understandable. If a film ever analyzes a topic that won’t ever be at rest, it’s bound to gain critics who feel the creators don’t have a grasp on said topic, inherently creating a flawed movie.

Once again, understandable. But still; worth checking out.

Grade: B

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