Saying that Ang Lee had his work cut out for him when adapting Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi is similar to saying that Henry VII was ‘a bit choosy’ when it came to women. Martel’s story of a sixteen-year-old boy who becomes stranded at sea after the ship carrying him and his zookeeper parents sinks is overflowing with impossible circumstances. Of course, this is what makes it a great book, but it‘s also what makes it a difficult film to make.
After names such as M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuarón abandoned ship before having even set sail, Lee eventually stepped up to the helm, armed with some 3D and copious helpings of CGI. Working with cinematographer Claudio Miranda, Lee brings a stunning and vivid realisation of Martel’s novel to the screen. French India is beautifully captured in the film’s opening and there’s no let up, as we’re taken to sea to witness some quite unbelievable sequences involving storms, plankton-lit oceans, blue whales and meerkat infested islands.
But despite the visual spectacles of the film it still feels very ‘literaryish’ due to the narration throughout and the fact that the story’s main events are told through an adult Pi; played by Irfan Khan. This can leave you feeling that you’re constantly being tugged away from the awe of the film with Lee jumping back and forth between past and present several times before the film gets going. However once Lee allows time for the crux of the story to unfold it gushes out from the screen and envelops the audience.
After the ship sinks Pi tries to find safety aboard a lifeboat only to discover that one of his parent’s Bengal tigers has already claimed it – and so begins the building of an incredible friendship between the two. Ayush Tandon gives a faultless performance as Pi and will no doubt receive plenty of well-deserved praise for pulling off such a brilliant performance opposite one of the most challenging supporting actors of all time.
The fact that you already know that Pi makes it home kind of ruin the film for me and I was left feeling it had slightly missed the mark but Lee obviously has a great understanding of what stuns his audience although sometimes he couldn’t step out from the shadow of this much beloved book. Despite this Life Of Pi will astound you and is worth a watch if only for the amazing CGI effects. I predict that even staunch fans of the book will be pleasantly surprised by the finished product.
Life Of Pi will open in UK cinemas on 20th December 2012. Watch the trailer below.
Matt Highmoor @Matt_Highmoor