Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movie Review: LIFE OF PI (2012)

Life of Pi (2012). Directed by Ang Lee and starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Rafe Spall. IMBD. PG.

This movie is amazing. Amazing.

Based on the bestselling, Booker-Prize winning novel by Yann Martel, Ang Lee's gorgeous film tells the story of a teen boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger after his ship sinks, killing his entire family and most of their menagerie of zoo animals. The family was moving from India to Canada, zoo owners hoping to sell their animals and start a new life. What happens next is an adventure you'll never forget.

If you've read the book, rest assured that the movie is very faithful to the book. If you haven't, I would urge you to see this movie in incredible 3D while it's in theaters, and then get to the book when you get a chance (but do get to it).

So, where do I begin? Lee makes great use of 3D, including the stunning opening credits sequence and the horrific sinking of the ship. Another reviewer mentioned Titanic (1997),  as in this sequence was the best ship-sinking on film since that memorable film. It's breathtaking and horrific. Then we settle in with Pi and the tiger Richard Parker for a long and trying voyage, replete with the suffering and beauty of the book. Lee creates some truly magnificent visual passages- a sea alight with jellyfish, a whale breaching, and one scene showing the sky indistinguishable from the water and the small boat looking as if suspended between the two. Suraj Sharma is great as Pi; for long stretches of the film he's the only person on screen but it always felt full. There was too much tension between him and the tiger, not to mention the ocean itself, to admit more characters.

The only thing I could have done without was the awkward and redundant framing device of having an older Pi tell his story to a Canadian writer. It just didn't need to be there, and distracted from the flow of story. I don't need to hear someone talking about telling the story. Just tell the story. I've said it before and I'll say it again; we don't need to have narratives filtered through the eyes of some Caucasian person in order to understand them. It's just not necessary. Martel didn't think it was; I don't understand why Lee made a different choice.

If you can ignore the frame, or if you're not bothered by it, you're in for a treat when you go to the movies starting November 21. There were tears and applause at the end of this film; it was that good. I can't wait to go see it again!

A word about the rating: the film is rated PG but I would not advise taking kids to see it. It doesn't have anything I would call adult content per se (there is violence among animals) but the kids present at the screening I attended were audibly unhappy. They were probably also confused. It's not a children's movie. Its themes are sophisticated and the narrative is mostly about death and loss. So just keep that in mind.

Rating: RUSH (the movie equivalent of BUY)

FTC Disclosure: I attended a free screening of the film as a professional courtesy.

18 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I haven't gone to see this movie because I wasn't crazy about the ending of the book and was afraid they'd be faithful to it. Maybe I'd understand it better as a movie.

JaneGS said...

I agree with bermudaonion--I felt so betrayed by the ending of the book that it put me off seeing what looks to be a magnificent movie.

I've really enjoyed the trailors I've seen, and I appreciated your perspective about anglo-narrators and the non-job they tend to have.

Good review!

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I'm so jealous that you've seen this already! I loved the book and I'm perfectly prepared to love the movie, too.

But...maybe I'm remembering wrong, as it's been years since I read the book, but there was something in the novel that framed the narrative that was Pi telling the story to somebody--whether that somebody was Caucasian I have no recollection at all--but there was something along those lines, and it interrupted the narrative only briefly and infrequently in the novel itself.

Marie said...

Emily, Pi was telling his story from his hospital bed to the Japanese businessmen who owned the ship.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I've this book on the TBR list. I love it when movies follow the book. And I'm glad this one does.

Zibilee said...

I loved this book, and have been eagerly watching the trailers for this one because it looked amazing. I am so glad to hear that it is and that it is faithful to the book. I love it when movies stay very close to what's on the page. November 21st can't come soon enough for me! Brilliant movie review today, Marie!!

bkclubcare said...

Can't wait! Should be stunning!

JoAnn said...

I still haven't read the book - what am I waiting for??

....Petty Witter said...

Another blogger I haven't visited in a while, I saw a comment you left on another blog and thought I'd stop by to say hello.

I really enjoyed the book but to be honest wasn't too sure if I wanted to see the film but your review has just convinced me I must.

bibliosue said...

I have seen the trailer for the movie a few times and it does look beautiful.
I think I will re-read the book before I see the movie

Jenners said...

I'm DYING to see this movie so I'm thrilled to hear it lived up to and was faithful to the book!! Now I'm even more excited to see it now that a person who read the book saw it. Would you recommend it in 3D or is plain old 2D oK?

Marie said...

Jenners, I would spring for the 3D but it will still look great in 2D!

Lindsey said...

The trailer looks so good. I read the book earlier this year and I'm glad to hear that the movie was faithful. Thanks for making us more excited for the release!

Ryan said...

I was a little apprehensive about this film. I find the work of Ang Lee to be really sporadic.Glad he showed up for this one.

Space Station Mir said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the movie, I wasn't sure how it would work out!

However, I do seem to remember that the book was framed as an older Pi telling his story to a reporter?

Mary said...

Must see it soon!

Jenny said...

I'm reading this now! Can't wait to see it. Maybe we'll have to see it Wednesday night to kick off the holiday weekend!

stacybuckeye said...

I was lukewarm on the book, but my husband really wants to see this one. The previews make it look visually stunning.