Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

November 24, 2012

Sea slick

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 1:34 am

November 23, 2012

Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu

Director: Ang Lee

Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee, is a film so fascinating and so stunning to look at, you don’t want to blink for fear of missing out on a moment. It’s the only film since James Cameron’s Avatar to exploit 3D so richly. Nearly every frame resembles a gorgeous watercolor painting…from the open blue skies, to the expanse of the ocean, the wondrous marine life underwater, even the island on which our hero at one point lands. Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon uses the technology shrewdly to suck you into this impossible story of a boy, the sea, and a tiger.

The boy in question, played by newcomer Suraj Sharma, is 16-year-old Piscine Molitor Patel, named after his uncle’s favorite swimming pool in Paris. Pi, as he nicknames himself, lives in Pondicherry with his parents who own a zoo. When the family decides to move to Canada, they pack up their belongings, exotic animals included, and board a ship. A massive storm causes the ship to sink. Only Pi and a tiger named Richard Parker survive, leaving them stuck on a lifeboat adrift at sea.

Narrated in flashback by the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) to a visitor in his home, this is the story of how a boy protected himself from becoming a tiger’s dinner, about the incredible experiences he went through during this ordeal that lasted over 200 days, and about how young Pi thought of God while he was on that boat, surrounded by endless water.

Adapted from Yann Martel’s Booker prize-winning novel, the film is above all else a visual marvel. Lee gives Life of Pi an epic, sweeping feel, but can’t seem to smoothly transpose the book’s overarching themes of spirituality and faith to the screen. We’re told Pi, who is raised a Hindu, also embraced Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, and his faith is tested as he struggles to stay afloat and alive under such trying circumstances. The film raises questions about life and death, about faith and what is real. But this whole spiritual business feels pat, lending little else but another ‘exotic’ layer to the story.

Nothing in the film is as riveting as the relationship and the precarious living arrangement between Pi and the ferocious Richard Parker. The tiger, in particular, is the film’s most stunning creation, realized entirely through computer-generated special effects. Lee employs CGI to deliver moments of sheer jaw-dropping beauty like a nighttime scene in which the ocean is lit up by colorful fish. Another stunning sequence is one in which Pi and the tiger encounter a shoal of flying fish.

Life of Pi is an immersive film that puts you at the heart of the story. Often dipping his camera below the surface of the water, Lee conveys the feeling of floating helplessly in the vastness of the ocean. The photography is beautiful, showcasing the mysteries and the dangers and the wonders of the seas.

Entrusted with an incredible, leading role in his very first film, Suraj Sharma anchors “Life of Pi” with a compelling. Despite the distracting accent, Irrfan Khan brings a soulful maturity to the part of the older Pi; and Adil Hussain and particularly the graceful Tabu are nicely cast as the younger Pi’s parents.

Yet, Life of Pi is not an easy film, although it does deliver many pleasures. The payoff in the end feels slight and not entirely convincing, but what you can never deny is that this film is unlike any other you’ve ever seen.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. It may not touch your heart, but it’s a feast for the eyes. Watch it for its sheer visual brilliance.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. I couldn’t agree more. Long after you would have seen ‘Life of Pie’ those mesmerising visuals would stay with you. The film is superb. I think no one should miss it. It is so real. A visual treat…

    Comment by Nitin — November 24, 2012 @ 8:19 am

  2. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a visually exceptional movie but were as it lacked very much in providing an emotional connect and feel with its characters that “Brokeback mountain” gave us.. Life of Pi may not be a movie that stays in our minds for a long time But it is still an effort that deserves an applause!!

    Comment by Deepak — November 24, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  3. This one made me forget the loopholes in avatar….
    a must watch in imax

    Comment by Gfreak — November 24, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

  4. My review of the movie “Life of Pi” which is stunningly beautiful and creativity at its best. http://jigardoshi91.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/life-of-pi-movie-review/

    Comment by Jigar Doshi — November 26, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

  5. its completly amazing experience with such brilliant visuals but i don’t agree that there was use of 3d to its fullest. 3d was hardly used at few moments while there was lot of scope to use it,espessialy with richard parker.

    Comment by mayank — November 28, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

  6. Life of Pi is National Geographic in 3D + William Wordsworth’s poetry + Pablo Picasso’s painting + Relations, Philosphy and God (Yann Martel) 🙂

    Comment by somya harsh — November 28, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

  7. Yes.It is a visual treat.However in the end i was like “Is this all?”!!.May be I was expecting much more in terms of emotions.I dont think the movie was enlightning or something.I still cant see why this makes you believe in God.After all it is a fantasy.

    Comment by Gururaj — December 17, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  8. Though visually magnificent…but the characters failed to strike a chord with the audience,i suppose…the dialogues were not up to the mark…and the complete lack of emotions was very hard to believe coming from a director who made Brokeback Mountain…but the graphics technology employed will give one their money’s worth for sure….

    Comment by Soham — December 21, 2012 @ 7:14 am

  9. People who feel for animals will connect. Viisuals .. Screenplay.. Acting 5 Stars !

    Comment by Chetan — December 22, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

  10. Visually Splendid, if else a bit empty!


    Comment by Sohan Surag — December 26, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  11. Are you kidding, Rajeev? If visual brilliance is the only point, then Raavan deserved a 4-1/2 star and not 1-1/2. At least that movie had an attempt of connecting the dots. Visual brilliance? Life of Pi was meandering without meaning. It didn’t even have the basic ‘continuity’ in place. What happened to the zebra’s, hyena’s and orangutan’s carcasses? Why did the sea look like a 2-foot pond in some sequences? Haven’t seen a more over-rated movie than this.

    Comment by Vinod G — January 2, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

  12. Love You Richard Parker !!! Thanks for Teaching us how to live life… animals are real survivors on the Earth, we all are just destroying everything there are many Richard Parker in India but there future is uncertain…!

    Comment by khush — January 15, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

  13. I agree that the movie didn’t quiet captured all the layers that the book has but this was probably the best movie made in 2012. It’s not only filled with visual delights but a great story-telling pf a difficult book adaption is still very impressive and the debut actors Suraj Sharma is surprisingly brilliant! I watched this movie three times at the cinema and was impressed each time.

    Comment by Jay Walke — March 30, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress