Monday, December 10, 2012

Film Review: Life of Pi

I read the book "Life of Pi" a couple of years ago, and thought it was a masterful piece of writing that forces you to fundamentally redefine your perception of the world afterwards. Although the story itself is a riveting one -- a survival epic of an unlikely duo consisting of a teenager and a tiger-- the real clincher happens at the end of the book. When the protagonist Piscine Monitor Patel (or simply referred to as "Pi") is challenged on his retelling of his survival story, he recounts another story that is essentially a much more sinister version. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and, when I heard a movie was finally created for it, had to go see the movie.

(Before I go further to discuss the movie itself, I have to take note of the particularly environment I watched the movie: on a date. This lady whom I liked previously finally agreed to go out and I heard that this film was an ideal date movie. Therefore, I have to admit my attention wasn't 100% focused on the film due to necessary distractions. In addition, I saw this film in 3D rather than the conventional 2D version -- a decision I very much glad of.)

Life of Pi (in 3D)

The movie adaptation of the took stays very true to the book, which is something that came as a pleasant surprise. For those who have read the book, there are many different subplots and occurrences that make make it difficult to translate into film without at least 5-hour. While I don't doubt that many of these were omitted by the director Ang Lee (understandably to keep the film just above the 2-hour mark), I also felt the film covered all but the most marginal subplots. This is a remarkable accomplishment and it demonstrates the effort put in to create the film. Examples range from Pi's brief romance before leaving, to the catching of the tuna fish, to ultimately the encounter with the carnivorous island. Simply put, it is not often that the movie adaption of a book I read closely leaves me feeling....satisfied. I actually had to urge to re-read the book after watching the movie -- especially to check on this romance fling of Pi's. 

After praising the director, it's turn to praise the actor. The role of Pi is played by the Indian actor Suraj Sharma, of whom I have never heard before. But his acting is superb throughout the film, captured both in the physical maneuvers as well as the emotional outbursts. Aside from perhaps a few too many loud yells at the tiger, he made the character believable and definitely held my attention as best as any film previously had. To put his acting into personal context, I wouldn't hesitate to equate his performance to that of Will Smith in the movie I Am Legend -- which is a fitting analogy given the dominance of screen time both actors had for their respective films. I wouldn't be surprised in the least on seeing Mr. Sharma in future Hollywood movies.

What makes Life of Pi such as good movie -- and a fitting date movie at that-- is portrayal of universal struggles that resonate with the audience. In a way, it is too truthful in its realization of our fears such as  abandonment or death of our entire family. Aren't these the deep-seated fears each of us has? But it is above all a movie of hope in demonstrating the tenacity of human will to adapt and survive the greatest challenges we are faced with. Although the character of Pi is probably a bit more clever than the average person in his meaningful keeping of the tiger alive (for companionship), he is also makes many mistakes and we can identify with those too. I should also commend the cinematography of the film, as it shows almost the perfect hybrid of real footage and computer animation (spoiler: I'd bet the tiger is CGI). Adjectives such as "elegance" and "majestic" would describe the cinematography well -- computer animation is used a lot but never in excessive quantities nor for too long a duration.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. My company might have helped to influence my opinion, but regardless it is remarkable movie for those not absolutely inclined in the so-called "chick flicks" nor the "action-packed". It is a film most fitting for audiences who enjoy thinking about the film long after seeing it, rather than simply providing only immediate visual stimulation. It's a shame that Life of Pi is flying so low on everyone's radar.

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