Theatrical Review: Life of Pi

Pi Patel has led an interesting life; born to a family who runs a zoo in India, Pi has always been curious about religion and finding the soul in all things, including the animals. Financial problems start to plague his family and they’re forced to sell their animals and hope to begin a new life in Canada. Disaster strikes though as the ship that they’re traveling on is capsized. Pi manages to survive on-baord a lifeboat with one other inhabitant; an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

That is a real simplified description of the premise to Life of Pi the latest film from celebrated director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and there really is much, much more to this than that, but I don’t want to say too much more because really, Life of Pi is something that demands to be experienced in theatres- this is a terrific movie and certainly right up there with Lee’s best.

I can’t claim to have read the novel this is based off of, but I’ve heard it described as “unfilmable.” Well, Ang Lee has certainly risen to the challenge and has given us something that’s absolutely beautiful, thrilling, funny and life-affirming all at once. Visually, Life of Pi is a true masterpiece, with moments that are just indelible on the mind. Right from it’s opening credits to the very end, this is pure visual spectacle. That alone would be enough to recommend the film, but fortunately there’s so much more with it’s compelling story of survival and self-discovery and absolutely terrific performances from newcomer Suraj Sharma and veteran actor Irrfan Khan as the teenage and adult Pi.

While those two performances certainly stand out, I have to give Lee credit with his casting of Gautem Belur and Ayush Tandon as Pi at ages 5 and 11 as well. All four actors play this part seamlessly and make this quite convincing that this is one person at different ages in his life. That alone would be enough as far as good performances go, but Lee has really stepped it up with what he’s done with the tiger, Richard Parker. From what I gather, the tiger is mostly computer animated, but they’ve really created a character here that’s as much a driving force in the film as Pi himself. It’s an amazing achievement and again, it deserves to be seen on the big screen.

And when you’re seeing this on the big screen, make sure you opt to see it in 3D as well. Lee has taken the 3D and really made it very much part of the experience. It’s more than just “in your face” moments (though it does have those). It truly immerses you in Pi’s experience and just enhances the film thoroughly.

Oh there’s so much more I want to say about this, but really I think it’s best that you go and experience this first hand. I’ve given you the basics, but there’s so much more going on here that If I say anything further, I tend to think that I’m going to spoil it and I certainly do not want to do that. Life of Pi is a very special movie that’s certainly deserving of all the accolades that it’s been receiving. Don’t miss this one…

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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