True quality films do not rely on one asset to succeed. Instead, a superb film blends the best parts of the movie’s every facet. To say that director Ang Lee’s, of “Brokeback Mountain” fame, achieved this with “Life of Pi” is a drastic understatement. The film, an adaptation of author Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, potently delivers an incredible tale, utilizing a perfect cast and expert visual effects to the fullest extent.
“Life of Pi” follows Piscine Molitor Patel, or simply “Pi,” throughout his life in Pondicherry, India, where his family owns a zoo. The majority of the film is told through his adult self looking back on memories. Viewers will watch as Pi explores his religious, moral and romantic life and ultimately grows into adolescence.
The primary focus of the film is adolescent Pi, who finds himself stranded on a raft with a slew of zoo animals, including a fierce Bengal tiger, after a massive storm interrupts his family’s relocation to Canada. Upon this raft, Pi ponders his existence, all while facing the hardships of the open ocean.
The casting strength is immediately evident in “Life of Pi.” The vast majority of the movie features the shipwrecked, teenage Pi as the only character on screen. First-time actor Suraj Sharma, whose performance is nothing short of moving and utterly extraordinary, brilliantly plays the stranded youth. His ability to evoke emotion from the audience, especially in moments of grief, is unwavering throughout the film and will not go unnoticed by viewers and critics.
Iffran Kahn is equally riveting as the adult Pi, his narrative perfectly voiced and his storytelling powerfully sad yet inspiring. As Pi reveals the end of his tale, it is Kahn’s unrelenting emotional intensity that will stay with the audience.
Along with exemplary acting, “Life of Pi” also has the advantage of being an aesthetically beautiful film, the most striking movie to grace the screen in years. Lee has not only created a masterful work of cinema but also led a brilliant design. The first parts of the film, which take place in India, are rife with color, culture and personality. Hindi chatter fills the air and gives the scenes a particularly exotic vibe. The music feels native, capturing the personality of India while avoiding being stereotypical or overbearing.
The many scenes upon the raft are stunning as well, the blue of the ocean almost surrealistic against the white and red of the life raft. Combined with tasteful 3-D effects, the scenes are all absolutely immersive.
“Life of Pi” is a triumph. With perfect casting and brilliant visuals, the film provides one of the most fulfilling movie-going experiences this year.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
Director Ang Lee brings Yann Martel’s novel to life with “Life of Pi.”