Once in awhile a movie comes along and makes me appreciate cinema again. I usually don’t give into or condone the purchasing of 3-D tickets, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, it actually makes the film better. The movie is given a sense of depth and clarity with its incorporation. Cheap 3-D effects. that we usually get in blockbusters nowadays aren’t used. Its inclusion is used simply as a tool to immerse the viewer into the world. From the very opening of the movie, your eyes are greeted with mesmerizing and lush imagery. The film should most certainly be receiving some nods for visual effects at the upcoming Oscars. For its visuals alone, the film, set itself apart from the competition and it doesn’t hurt that it contains a magical and awe inspiring script to boot.
The film was adapted from a short story by Yann Martel. It covers the remarkable and spiritual story of survival of an of an Indian boy named Piscine Patel. Pi is castaway at sea and is forced to live on a small life boat with a Bengal Tiger. The film covers religious themes but in such away that it isn’t agitating or forcing its way on the viewer. Just as Pi seeks out different religions; the viewer is given the chance to explore them as well. I would say that these themes are actually more about Pi being given choice, as well as, giving the film watcher a wider perspective on the subject.
The film was amazingly casted and filled by a remarkable set of international actors. One of the only faults I found in movie was the decision to have Rafe Spall play the reporter. He had some pretty flat reactions to some of the more emotional scenes in the film. The decision to have Tobey Maguire removed from the role was probably for the best. He was replaced due to his image being too much related to Spider-Man. Yet, I still wonder what he could have brought to the table. After seeing him receive a nomination for best actor in a motion picture drama for his performance in ‘Brothers’. He definitely has shown, in my opinion, that he is willing to prove he can play more diverse characters then what has come to be expected of him.
Ang Lee truly found a needle in a haystack. The leading role of the film is played by Surah Sharma. Not only is this Sharma’s first role in a major film but Sharma has no previous acting experience before this. Ang Lee chose him over about three thousand other candidates, for mostly his looks, but Sharma has provided a great performance for his Hollywood debut.
The real praise, however, should go to the visual effects team at Rhythm and Hues Studios for creating one of the most believable and life-life characters ever to be brought to life; Richard Parker. Your given the opportunity to forgot that he is fictional. Even the slightest movements of Richard Parker contain subtleties that give the beast personality. The most unexpected and unique bond is brought to life on screen between Richard Parker and Pi. With all the hard work put into Richard Parker; we are actually inclined to believe that all of this. somehow might be possible.
The movie follows a pretty basic formula. Pi’s childhood is explored, he is given a romantic interest, and an obstacle he must overcome. He overcomes his obstacle but there is no definitive moment of catharsis for his character. Instead we are given an enigmatic ending that is neither happy or sad. The moviegoer gets to decide for himself what they want to believe. This idea of story telling is very powerful and I want to praise Ang Lee for his courage in taking this film on that route of imaginative narrative. You aren’t just simply watching the movie. You have created a relationship with the author of the story. You are required to come into understanding on the material presented to you on your own accord.
Life of Pi pulls you in, breaks your heart, and leaves you to decide how to put all the pieces of the story’s puzzle back together again.