Overview – Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, ‘Life of Pi’ is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.
How do you make a movie out of a book that contains virtually no dialogue, focuses on a single isolated character, features wild animals, and takes place almost entirely in the middle of the ocean? Just ask Ang Lee, who devoted four years of his life to bringing ‘Life of Pi’ to the screen. The mystical story of a courageous young man who spends weeks adrift at sea in a small lifeboat in the company of a ferocious tiger enthralled readers around the globe, but proved to be a highly challenging motion picture project, especially in 3D. Yet Lee, a visionary genius, worked tirelessly to craft a film of unparalleled beauty and brash innovation that captures the essence of the novel. Though the themes of ‘Life of Pi’ are well worn, its fresh, often dazzling presentation and superior artistry elevate the movie to a rarefied plane and make it a must see.
Shakespeare wrote “the play’s the thing,” but in the case of ‘Life of Pi,’ images speak louder than words. The inspirational tale surely possesses the power to move an audience, but the breathtaking visuals stir the soul. While I struggled to connect to the film’s narrative and underlying philosophy, its gorgeous imagery instantly captivated me, and when I focused more intently upon it during a second viewing, my admiration for Lee and his crackerjack technical crew multiplied exponentially. Merging live action with heavy CGI is a tough enough task, but adding 3D to the mix ups the ante considerably, yet Lee’s feathers never seem ruffled, and the elegant lyricism that drips from every frame of ‘Life of Pi’ – even during its intense action sequences – are a testament to Lee’s enviable sense of space, motion, and composition. It’s no wonder the film received 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won four Oscars, the most noteworthy of which was Lee’s well-deserved prize for Best Director (the Ben Affleck snub notwithstanding). Almost all the nods came in technical categories, but that’s where ‘Life of Pi’ shines the brightest.