Life of Pi is two different movies put in one — the first is a gorgeous, stunning collection of frames that tosses you on an emotional journey, and the second, a heavy-handed sermon on the necessity of God. It succeeds gloriously in the former, and falls flat in the latter. Either ways, it provides ample proof that director Ang Lee can make even an inanimate object filmable.
The film stars Irrfan as Pi and newcomer Suraj Sharma as his younger self, but the guy who makes the most impact is a CGI tiger called Richard Parker, and it is a testament to how sophisticated computer graphics have become. Every scene is so meticulously put together by Lee and his crew it’s nearly impossible to separate the CGI from the practical effects.
Lee remains faithful to Yann Martel’s book — Pi is marooned at sea on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and Richard Parker. The tiger is so hypnotic to watch you won’t believe it. It seems like Lee channelled all his sorrow from The Hulk’s failure and created a CGI character that will forever be remembered as iconic.
Parker’s eyes are so powerful they flood your brain with the questions layering the theme of the book — whether it is possible to tame a wild animal and become friends with it, and whether a wild animal whose life you save will ever return your favor. One moment you’re frightened to look into his eyes, the next you feel your heart wrenching as they betray the ever so slight sense of helplessness when Parker hangs on for life. But the tiger isn’t just the beauty of Life of Pi — there are Avatar-esque bioluminescent blue-green vegetation, vast expanse of sea, meercats and algae that emit just the right amounts of magic and realism.
Unfortunately, the two hour long, carefully crafted emotional buildup leads to a finale that consists of a long, uncut monologue by Pi, and is absolutely infuriating to watch.
Those who’ve read the book will know that the climax is a frightening turn that explains majority of the magic realism throughout the movie. But what we get is a droning line reading of the same, and it completely diminishes the impact of the events, and goes completely against the point of the whole film.
Moreover, the spiritual themes that pop in and out fail to connect on any level and are only jarring to the viewer. Irfan is strictly okay, but Suraj Sharma is quite a find. Tabu makes a blink-and-miss appearance.
Life of Pi misses out from being a masterpiece, but it is a hell of a beautifully crafted film. It has been marketed as a 3D film, but it should be watched ONLY in 2D, on the largest screen possible.