Life of Pi (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain)
Written by David Magee (Finding Neverland)
Starring: Suraj Sharma, and Irrfan Khan
Every year there are a few films, which just seem like plain ole Oscar bait, Pi appeared to be one of those films. Sometimes Oscar bait can be a good, and bad thing, because sometimes these films actually surprise, and become solid films. I avoided Life of Pi for weeks, but after weeks it was time, and this film succeeds.
The film centers Piscine "Pi" Patel. As an adult Pi (Khan) meets an author who wants to hear his incredible story . Pi talks about his experiences as a young boy living in French India. Throughout this time Pi speaks about his religious journey as Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist. Throughout these religious experiences a young Pi searches for meaning in his own young life. While his father abhors the concept of religion, and his taking on three different his mother connects with him through this journey. Pi's family owns a zoo, and when the town decides they want the zoo gone, the family heads to Canada. While on a freighter with his family a storm hits the ship, and Pi hurtled into a life raft forced to tackle an incredible life journey.
Pi's journey and the film itself are set in motion by master director Ang Lee. Over the years Lee has proven to be one of the best directors creating different worlds. In 1995's Sense and Sensibility he explored the world of Jane Austen and 1800s British society. 1997's The Ice Storm explored a 1960s key party, familial patterns of the decade, and the point of young sexual exploration. In 2000 Lee explored two warriors search for a stolen sword and a nobleman's daughters self exploration in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. 2005's Brokeback Mountain explored two ranch hands, their special summer while herding, along with their tragic romance. Looking at just these four films, and Pi you can see Lee's directorial range.
In Life of Pi, Lee takes his directorial skills to a whole new level. Lee direction has evolved, and his mastery of 3D, like Scorsese's Hugo, is lyrically beautiful. Lee is one of the most poetic directors he always adds further emotional levels to his films. Lee's Pi is an emotional experience pulling you in from the first moment. Pi is a film you don't just watch, but rather one that sets you off on the raft along with the Bengal tiger.
The film is one of the most beautiful films of the years, and the visual effects along with the 3D technology is some of the best of the year. As you see the different CGI animals, the fish flying at the boat, the island glowing, and many more images this films use of technology and visual mastery is the true star of the film. Claudio Miranda's cinematography helps capture some beautiful images adding to the visual sumptuousness of the film, and creating an incredibly magical world. Mychael Danna's score also helps set up the films inspiring journey as Pi himself goes from being a boy searching for himself through religion to an adult coping with the actual experiences of his journey.
As the adult Pi, Khan narrates the story of his own journey with grace, beauty and intense vulnerability. In Suraj Sharma's first film experience he tackles one of the most challenging roles of his career, and succeeds brilliantly. As Pi grapples with experiences on the boat Sharma does a great showing the way this young boy forces himself to grow up sooner than expected, and in the closing moments of Sharma's performance is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Beauty is one of the central themes of this film, as this film uses the technical aspects to create one of the most beautiful film experiences. When you look past the visual the story succeeds, and leaves you thinking long after the experience about the young boy named Pi and his journey with a tiger who became his greatest friend.