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Screen » Film

The Best Pi of the Holidays

Ang Lee film sizzles with a lasting bite of survival



If you were stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with minimal supplies and an unlikely adversary, would you be able to survive?

In this riveting display of courage and resiliency, Life of Pi showcases a young man's voyage conveyed through an unnerving supply of raging water, a bevy of aquatic creatures and a dubious antagonist in the form of a Bengal tiger.

Based on the award-winning novel by Yann Martel, the tale is told through the eyes of the adult Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan), as he tries to convince an aspiring writer, whom the book describes as Martel himself, that his story will rekindle the man's faith in life.

This emotional narrative grabs filmgoers by the shoulders and pulls them into young Pi's (Suraj Sharma) traumatic saga of perseverance through a journey at sea with a tiger oddly named Richard Parker.

Before his harrowing excursion begins, director Ang Lee, best known for titillating films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Taking Woodstock, supplies the audience with a tease in the opening credits of the visually-stimulating 3-D animation that will accompany Pi's heroic journey.

From giraffes to lizards and monkeys to birds, these animals jump at the audience with the invigorating computer-generated imagery (CGI) technique that has progressively transformed cinematic artistry.

After the brief 3-D seduction, the film shifts to the culturally rich territory of Pondicherry, which in modern culture is called the "French Riviera of the East," where our hero Pi is born.

Raised in a lifestyle of tradition and natural order, the young Pi has a yearning for the true identity of faith, which helps him discover three distinctively different religions in Hindu, Christianity and Islam.

His skepticism pits him against his simple-minded father, Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain), who believes his son's perplexed views of religion will lead him astray.

The spiritual contention here builds on director Lee's resume of films dealing with controversial matters.

His 2009 film, Brokeback Mountain, for instance, delivered an intricate story of a gay relationship between two cowboys.

Stuck in the middle of the mighty Pacific Ocean with a gang of animals from his family's abandoned zoo and a cameo appearance from Gerard Depardieu, young Pi is about to be tossed into not just a cluster of waves but a vivid friendship between a lost soul and a relentless tiger.

The gorgeous tiger fosters a bond with Pi similar to the likes of Shere Khan and Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

As the movie plays out, differences between the tiger and the boy begin to fade and we're left with deep existential questions that make this movie one of the most memorable of the year.

Not only that, the visual effects were amazing; a multitude of fluorescent aquatic life, including a heart-skipping confrontation with a massive blue whale and a throng of jellyfish made this truly an epic film. The balance of Lee's CGI-induced cinematography and Martel's original storyline create a fantastic film full of excitement that is definitely worth a trip to the theater.

Life of Pi

Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Adil Hussain


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