Based on the Man Booker prize winning novel by Yann Martel, Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger) has brought the explosion of colour to our screens. With some stunning visual effects and a thought provoking finish, it lacked in movement with a slow start.
An adult Piscine Patel (Pi), played by Irrfan Khan, recounts his tale to a Canadian writer (Rafe Spall) who is seeking a story worthy of putting pen to paper. The film flits between the present day and flashbacks to Pi’s childhood and the unlikely events unto which beheld him.
Young Pi, a boy who lives on his father’s zoo in the centre of Pondicherry in India, finds God in three different forms which leads him to practice Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Belonging to part of a respectable family of four, Pi’s father decides to upheave his family and animals to Canada in order to escape political unrest. Aboard a Japanese cargo ship, a savage storm leaves the adolescent Pi (Suraj Sharma) stranded at sea in a lifeboat, with a wounded zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and Richard Parker, the fantastically CGI-ed Bengal tiger. This is the life of Pi for 227 days.
The only way to describe Pi’s story is a vibrant flare of colour that could only be made possible if it was a world created by one of Pi’s gods. It makes dreary grey London laughable. Although the film would not have been made possible without CGI, it is still fairly believable. Less so when Richard Parker is in his habitat at the zoo, but the real beauty occurs when Pi is at sea. The amalgamation of exaggerated colour issues confusing pangs of emotion; of envy at the attractive scenic palate, and desperation on Pi’s behalf.
To be honest, I was expecting a story like Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and instead I got a slower paced ‘airy fairy’ fiction. That’s not to say it was bad, but it lacks grounded realism. I realise this is the point, but if you have the dirty, gang-ridden Indian slums in your mind, you will find Life of Pi perhaps less engaging. Pi Patel’s life is so very different to the life of Jamal Malik.
It is one of those films that is slow to start, brilliant in the middle, and then dips a little before offering a heart wrenching twist, so intense that it leaves you thinking about it for days (and luckily you sort of forget the slightly pants bits of the movie). Lee has executed a valiant attempt at producing the cinematic adaptation, but nothing can beat the great piece of literature that is the Life of Pi. 4/5.
Watch the trailer here.