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Life of Pi - Review

Life of Pi

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ANG Lee has pulled off what many have described as impossible by turning Yann Martel’s Life of Pi novel into a truly cinematic marvel.

The film is both beautiful to watch and emotionally involving, taking you on a journey that poses some intelligent questions about life and religion while exciting you at the same time with some mesmerising imagery.

The story begins as a frustrated writer (Rafe Spall) arrives at the home of Pi Patel (played in his older years by Irrfan Khan) to hear an amazing life story that could well confirm the existence of God.

Over the course of their meeting, Pi recalls his younger years spent in India and his father’s fateful decision to relocate to America, where he hopes to be able to sell the animals in his zoo.

En route, however, their ship is capsized in a storm, leaving Pi (now played by Suraj Sharma) as the sole human survivor in a rowboat. The only trouble is, he also has a tiger, a zebra, a hyena and an orang-utan for company.

The ensuing film charts Pi’s desperate bid to stay alive and his relationship with the tiger, which more than anything comes to define the man he subsequently becomes.

And it’s during this journey that Lee’s film really comes into its own, creating a believable scenario that often feels terrifyingly real.

The tiger is a special effects marvel, emerging as a flesh and blood creation capable of turning on Pi at any moment, but who slowly becomes aware of the importance of their companionship to each other.

Sharma is terrific too for a first-timer, having to convey a range of emotions in virtual solitude. He nevertheless invests Pi with tremendous heart and courage, frequently finding humour in the most desperate of situations.

Khan, as the older, wiser story-teller is great value too, as is Spall as the sympathetic listener.

Lee’s visual sense also works in the film’s favour, helping to create some amazing set pieces (involving breaching whales, millions of meerkats and CGI storms) that elevate this relatively intimate personal tale to the epic.

The conclusion, meanwhile, succeeds in posing some interesting questions about the nature of perception and belief.

All told, Life of Pi is a stunning achievement: a film that combines art-house intelligence with blockbuster spectacle to create something as emotionally satisfying as it is enriching.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 127mins
UK Release Date: December 20, 2012