‘Life of Pi’ Review: Ang Lee Makes the “Impossible” Possible

katieholland November 27, 2012 0
‘Life of Pi’ Review: Ang Lee Makes the “Impossible” Possible
  • Characters
  • The Ocean
  • Stunning Effects & 3D
  • True to the Book
  • Portrayal of Religion

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Yann Martel (novel), David Magee (screenplay)
Actors: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
Producer: Ang Lee, Dean Georgaris
Music: Mychal Danna
Editing: Tim Squyres
Cinematography: Claudia Miranda




Beautiful, stunning and emotionally captivating, Life of Pi lives up to the hype and anticipation! Straight from the pages of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, director Ang Lee takes us on an adventure of epic proportions as he brings to life the story of Pi Patel and his perilous journey across the Pacific Ocean.

I picked up a copy of the novel a few years ago, and read it from cover to cover in less than a weekend. Needless to say, I was more than excited when I heard Lee had plans to bring the story to theaters.

The Story

Through the eyes of the youngest son Piscine, or Pi as he prefers, we are introduced to the Patels and their family business, a zoo. When turmoil strikes in India the Patel’s decide to sell the animals and move to avoid bankruptcy. All seems well as the family travels with the animals on a huge Japanese freighter across the Pacific towards Canada, that is until a massive storm strikes and sinks the vessel.

Amongst the chaos, Pi accidentally winds up on a life boat and is forced to watch as everything he has ever loved and known sinks to the bottom of the ocean. He quickly discovers he’s not the only one trying to survive; Pi shares the boat with an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan named Orange Juice, and Richard Parker, a vicious Bengal tiger. One by one the animals take each other out, while Pi keeps his distance as best he can until it’s just him and the tiger.

The Good

Pi & Richard Parker

Piscine is a marvelous character; in his youth he was introduced to many religions and believes they are all correct. This allows him to be more open minded and accepting of the events that have occurred in his life. He narrates the mental and physical torture of floating at sea for weeks with minimal supplies on top of having to share the small space with a hungry tiger. Finding someone to play the role of Pi was surely a difficult task, but when the film introduces the character at four different stages in life it opens up an entire new level of precision. And I must say, the four Pi’s worked together flawlessly.

A Visually Magnificent Ocean

Conveying the Pacific Ocean’s vastness to an audience can be difficult, unless you’re Ang Lee. His ability to create the most beautiful nautical scenery will make you wish you were out there with Pi. Lee takes his audiences to the deepest depths of the sea in a visually stunning galaxy-like way. Throughout the film, he makes the sky and water appear as one which causes some intentional disorientation, bringing you much closer to Pi’s adventure. Most of the boat shots were filmed in a giant wave tank. Thinking back, I have a hard time believing they didn’t have this boy out in the middle of storm ridden tides. The scenes were ultra intense and had me on the edge of my seat.

Stunning Effects & 3D

Wow. That’s really all I can say. Critics who were calling this “the next Avatar” were not far off except Life of Pi is a better film by leaps and bounds.

From the beginning I was enthralled by the beautiful opening credits which features exquisite shots of the zoo animals doing what they do best — being cute. The idea of 3D still makes me cringe a bit, but I decided to go for it. Take note current and future directors, this is the way 3D should be done. Instead of interrupting our connection with the story, Lee utilized the technology in a beautiful and discreet way that enhanced the viewing experience. Blending flawlessly with the rest of the effects, you forget that you are watching a movie… that is until a tiger jumps out at you.

Staying True to the Book

Can I just say “wow” again? To say I was nervous about how Lee and screenwriter David Magee were going to approach this is an understatement. How were they going to capture Pi’s inner turmoil that was best explained with several inner monologues in the novel? With a perfect performance by Suraj Sharma (teenage Pi), it goes to show the importance of casting when many readers already possess a strong mental image of the character. It was as if Lee projected my own visions onto the screen. He created a film that no doubt made both Martel and his loyal readers very happy.

The Portrayal of Religion

In a stunning fashion Lee managed to portray three separate religions in both respectful and beautiful manners. My favorite of which was how he introduced us to the Hindu Gods. From Krishna to Ganesh, we are shown beautiful imagery attached to the beliefs of this wildly interesting culture and religion, including connotations of the entire religion splashed throughout the imagery and content of Pi’s great adventure. His introduction to Islam and Christianity are similarly interesting and groundbreaking; presenting a main character with more than one belief system in a world when it is preached to make up your mind and pick one is not an easy task, but Lee handled this with pure finesse.

Normally we include “The Bad” section, but in this case nothing is lacking. From start to finish this beautiful film is a prime example of how to transform a novel into a motion picture. There aren’t enough words to explain how strongly I urge everyone to go out and see this as soon as humanly possible.

Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5

‘Life of Pi’ Trailer