Life of Pi is a dramatic, fantastical, survival adventure film from director Ang Lee and based on the book by Yann Martel. While there are only a few fantastic elements to the film, I think there are enough of them to include a review here.
The thing I noticed the most throughout the film is the amazing usage of color: the scenes set in India with all their varied bright colors, the vivid greens on the floating mangrove island, the colorful blues and greens of the ocean, the glory of the sunset and sunrise shots, and the beautiful, luminescent colors in the night scenes. All of them combine to create an amazing visual feast which encompasses almost every shot in the film, and I’m sure my words don’t begin to do it justice.
The acting by newcomer Suraj Sharma as the title character is very convincing and packs a punch and raw power you would expect from only veteran actors. The supporting cast does a great job evoking emotion and interest in their lives, and there’s a cameo from the seasoned Gérard Depardieu as the surly cook on the ship.
One of my favorite parts of the film before the trip on the ship is the budding romance between Pi and Anandi. The innocence and shyness of the characters as they explore their feelings, especially once they learn Pi is moving, is very realistic.
The magical scenes on the ocean are the most visually stunning. The luminescent jellyfish encountered in the middle of the night, as well as the encounter with the whale (shown in the poster image, above), help show how magical nature can be at night. Another scene, where the ocean was very calm at night, made me remember fireflies in the fields at night in the summer.
The only potentially-disturbing parts are those involving the animals, including the tiger (who is named “Richard Parker” for reasons explained in the film), but most of the violence occurs just off screen, with only the aftermath being shown. I think director Lee did a good job of letting the audience know what was happening without stooping to using violence simply for shock value. I think this made the film more powerful than it would have been otherwise.
I highly recommend Life of Pi as an excellent “growing up” film as you can see the maturing of Pi throughout the film. The ending is also not what you may expect, and it’s done in a good way that leaves you thinking. Ang Lee hit the nail on the head with this one.
Release Date: November 21, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Language: 1 (mild derogatory name-calling)
Violence: 3 (some predator peril, animals killing other animals)