Ang Lee delivers a stunningly beautiful film of survival and spirituality, elegantly constructed and full of heart. Life of Pi, triumphantly channels difficult source material into a wonderful and clear vision. Lee manages to forgo what must have been the tempting traps of cutesiness and overwrought sentimentality, replacing them with guts and beauty.
Piscine (Pi) Patel is an oddly named Indian child who embraces all forms of religion, much to the amusement of his parents. The family own a zoo but due to financial pressures decide to sell up and move to Canada, bringing their animals along with them on board a ship. A terrible storm leaves Pi as the only survivor of a shipwreck, minus a small handful of wild animals who manage to stowaway on the life boat. The animals are very much wild and in no way anthropomorphised creating a bizarrely powerful dyanmic as Pi is utterly stranded, attempting to survive against both the elements and the untamed beasts he finds in his company.
Pi is mainly played by the remarkable Suraj Sharma, a young man brand new to acting, showing immense charisma and range who amazingly couldn’t even swim before taking the role. The film’s dreamlike qualities are exquisite and mesmerisimg. It’s full of gorgeous cinematography while the protagonist’s struggle with mind, body and soul matches the film’s aesthetic perfectly creating an absorbing cinematic experience. The CGI animals look so real they might as well be the actual things, which only adds more credit to the performance of Sharma who must have been acting against nothing for the film’s majority.
Life of Pi is constructed delicately, managing to resonate without overplaying itself. It’s a dreamy, spiritual and completely human adventure which Lee controls with confidence and vigor.
Review by David Rank
Life of Pi is out on 20th December in the UK. Certificate PG (UK). Running time 127 mins.
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