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Life of Pi Film Review

posted Mar 7, 2013, 4:14 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Mar 16, 2013, 10:47 AM by Golden Knight ]
By Casey Shatraw


Being alone in the middle of the ocean with limited supplies, and no connection to civilization can really ruin your day. Want to top it? Throw in a hungry tiger and you have Pi Patel’s dilemma. After a powerful and devastating storm leaves Pi alone in the middle of the ocean, Pi has to not only survive to tell the story, but also keep a vicious tiger from making him dinner. This is our plot in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. An epic, tasteful, and beautiful story that really tests the limits of the human spirit.

One of the most notable qualities of this film is its cinematography. You don’t have to know much about lighting or postproduction color correction for this film to take your breath away. It is gorgeous. It’s like stepping into a thousand different paintings. It contains some of the most astonishing cinematography I have ever seen, and it greatly enhances not only the film’s mood, but overall impact. Suraj Sharma (Pi) puts on a pretty phenomenal performance in this film, and that goes for the entire cast as well. He is truly believable, and is very natural on screen. He is able to create a likable character, which is important if we’re going to be watching him on a boat for 90 minutes.

The story did trouble me a little as I was going in. I could never wrap my mind around how a 2-hour film was going to be able to capture the engaging characteristics that the novel had. Surprisingly, it does just that. The story is interesting, and doesn’t seem cheap, or artificial in any manner. The likability of the characters helps to flow everything together, keeping the pretty linear plot interesting and engaging. It does this really well, and by the time the film ends, you feel a sense of closure, instead of relief that it finally ended. Dialogue is also top notch, and it doesn’t hurt that you have a narration to guide you along the way. It feels as though you are being told this remarkable story, which because of the acting, really feels like it happened.

The relationship between the protagonist and the tiger is crucial in this film, and this is something I never feel they gripped well enough. The bond between humans and nature is existent, but it feels thin, and doesn’t bring about any emotional catharsis. There is physical triumph in this film, but not so much a triumph in relationship. The tiger is definitely an important character in this film, and although he is well present and active with Pi, I can’t help but wish we had a bit more of a connection between them.

Life of Pi still is a triumph in almost every way. It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, and it just feels so alive. Everything about it is high in quality, and nothing feels cheap or overplayed. It succeeds in what it was trying to do. Could it have succeeded even more? Sure. But it is undeniably impressive how Lee (Director) and Magee (Writer) are able to capture the novel, and put us on a small boat for over an hour. When films like this are able to accomplish that, it is worth pointing out.