Film review: Life of Pi

If you want to escape the bleary grey of Fukui in February, I recommend you see this film. For 127 minutes you’ll be taken on a journey from dazzling India, across the Pacific Ocean to new shores, and that journey will be taken in a life boat, with a tiger.

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I’m sure fans of the award-winning book Life of Pi (Yann Martel, 2001) will be waiting for a chance to see this film, as I was. Yet having seen the trailer, I was apprehensive of how the director, Ang Lee, had over fantasised the imagery, like when a whale rises through magical phosphorescent water. Stunning computer graphics no less, but it gives the impression it is a fantasy children’s film, not a thought-provoking story of faith and survival.

Nevertheless, the film lives up to the captivating book. Irrfan Khan plays the adult protagonist Pi with natural charm and unaltered skill. From a small town in India, Pi’s family are moving to Canada in search for a better life, and are taking with them their wealth, which happen to be the zoo animals they own.  A gigantic storm causes the ship to sink, but Pi by chance survives, with some escaped zoo animals: a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and the other protagonist of the film, Richard Parker, a Bengali tiger. The animals and Pi begin to share the boat together, with some predictable outcomes.

The visual effects are so believable that, I was on the edge of my seat every time Richard Parker nearly clawed Pi! In more subdued moments, the tiger’s eyes are so expressive that you could believe that the tiger was more than a tiger. I was watching it in 2D (as the 3D version was only available with a dubbed soundtrack in Sabae), but I’d love to watch it again in 3D as reviews have only praised the added effects.

Ang Lee has made an exciting film which is a feast for the senses, yet the real star will always be the author, Yann Martel.  The final scenes have the power to change everything, or will add another layer to this moving story of endurance, faith and hope.

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