Movie review: Life Of Pi is a magnificent piece of cinema
Stunning cinema: Ang Lee's Life Of Pi, based on the bestselling novel by Yann Martel.
Every so often, a film comes along with a visual spectacle so fantastic, it doesn't matter what the story holds, you still leave the cinema spellbound in its wake.
Even rarer then, is a film that not only matches the amazing visual world it creates, but exceeds it, with a challenging and thought-provoking plot that will have you talking about it longer than its CGI-trickery.
Academy Award-winning Director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) has left no stone unturned in ensuring that his latest effort, Life Of Pi, is one such film.
Based on Yann Martel's bestselling and supposedly unfilmable novel of the same name, Life Of Pi is nothing short of a stunning piece of cinema, fusing some of the best 3D imagery ever seen in cinemas with deep and involving questions of faith, faultless performances from its leads and emotional impact almost unprecedented in films in 2012.
This is made all the more impressive because most of the film plays out between a boy, young Indian actor Suraj Sharma for most of the film, and a completely computer generated Bengal tiger.
The story starts in Pondicherry, India's answer to the French Riviera, with a young boy named Pi Patel and his family growing up in a zoo.
Pi's house is divided in its faith.
His father (Adil Hussain) is a believer in the "new India", a staunch atheist who has no time for his country's long and rich religious history.
His mother (Bollywood star Tabu) is more traditional, holding on to her past and culture and encouraging Pi to explore his blossoming spirituality.
Pi (played in his younger days by Gautam Belurand Ayush Tandon) is a curious type, at first dabbling in his native Hindu faith, before exploring Christianity and Muslim beliefs, much to the distaste of his father.
However it is an encounter in the zoo with the humorously named, yet savage tiger Richard Parkerthat seems to affect Pi the most.
This leads him to question the foundations of his beliefs and putsabigger wedge between him and his father.
It is at this point when Life Of Pi takes a swift turn, moving from the pleasant surrounds of Pondicherry to an ill-fated boat voyage to Canada after Pi's father is forced to sell the family's zoo and relocate.
The Japanese freighter Pi and his family are travelling on sinks during a violent storm, leaving the boy stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with no one for company but some of the animals from the zoo, including the one and only Richard Parker.
Make no mistake, this is no Disney story about a boy making friends with a tiger.
It is a tale of survival, faith and the human condition, where Pi realises the only way he and Richard Parker are to survive, after the other animals meet their swift end, is to live in a state of fragile harmony until they are rescued.
How the story plays between Pi and Richard Parker is where Life Of Pi truly shines.
Journeying deep into the psyche, it is a film that leaves the audience with more questions than answers, delving into faith and religion, endurance in the face of adversity and, most of all, love.
Told almost totally on the surface of the ocean on the boat, the setting gives Lee a chance to back up his hard-hitting story with some stunning 3D visuals, which are easily the best we have seen since Avatar.
However, the frolicking whales, magical islands and schools of luminescent jellyfish seem to pale in comparison to the emotional pay-off at the end, which is the hallmarkof a truly brilliant filmmaker.
Life Of Pi is a magnificent piece of cinema, unparalleled in its scope and storytelling.
It firmly proves that, in the hands of the right director (hats off to Mr Lee), even the most complex and esoteric novel canbe a great film.
Review by Jesse Kuch. Life Of Pi (PG) is in cinemas nationwide from Tuesday, January 1.
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Odd couple: Suraj Sharma as Pi and Richard Parker, the CGI tiger, in Life Of Pi.