Ang Lee impressively brings 'Pi' to life
Science and spirit, technology and transcendence may sometimes be at war, but in “Life of Pi” — Ang Lee's spectacular take on the popular Yann Martel novel — they instead make for graceful dance partners.
The story of a boy who finds his faith challenged after being stranded at sea with only wild animals for company is made stunningly real by the latest developments in computer graphics and 3-D cinematography.
The result is that a book that many might have considered best kept on the printed page comes rapturously alive on screen.
“Life of Pi” is told in flashback with the adult Piscine Molitor Patel (Irrfan Khan), an Indian immigrant living in Montreal, is recounting his incredible life to a disspirited author (Rafe Spall) on the hunt for something to write about. And the tale he tells is an unbelievable one.
Back in India, Patel's idiosyncratic dad (Adil Hussain) not only had a touch of the poet in him - naming his son after a Parisian swimming-pool complex, the Piscine Molitor - but also ran a small zoo.
Life is pretty good for the Patels, especially young Piscine (Suraj Sharma) who calls himself Pi. He is one of the most clever kids in his class and often wonders about the Big Questions. He declares at one point that he's Hindu, Muslim and Christian, much to the consternation of his Hindu mom, non-believing dad and not particularly interested brother (Ayan Khan).
Then Pi's world is turned upside down when the family decides to move to Canada, bringing their menagerie with them on what would be a slow, tortuous journey across the Pacific. Tragedy strikes when a violent storm sinks the ship, killing nearly everyone on board. Pi mananges to make his way onto a lifeboat - as do several of the animals, including a Bengal tiger (cheekily named Richard Parker), a wounded zebra, an orangutan, and a snarling hyena in an especially bad mood (not that you can blame him).
If handled badly, this is when “Life of Pi” could have veered into silliness. But Lee, along with scriptwriter David Magee (“Finding Neverland”) and cinematographer Claudio Miranda (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “TRON: Legacy”) manage to keep the fantastic credible.
This is no Dr. Doolittle or Noah and his docile herds. With both the hyena and tiger hungry and aggressive, there are moments of dread, panic and terror that may be too intense for some younger viewers. At this point, you stop wondering what's real and what's CGI and start ducking.
Yet there is beauty amid the isolation as well. When schools of flourescent fish light up the sea underneath a weary Pi, it's a wondrous splash of visual splendor in a movie filled with them.
Student-turned-actor Sharma, in his first role, deserves major kudos as he carries the entire movie on his slim shoulders, having only animals, God and green-screen technology to talk to through much of the film. And Lee also should be congratulated for taking a long-gestating project (director M. Night Shyamalan was once supposed to make it) and using a cast of unknowns, despite the pressure of having to have star power in a big-budget Hollywood movie. (Lee did shoot scenes with Tobey Maguire as the writer but cut them and reportedly purposely recast the part with someone less famous.)
Exactly what happens to Pi on his misadventure, and how it affects him, may make for lively discussion around the turkey this holiday season. But there should be no argument that Lee has made one of the year's most impressive films.
Cary Darling is a staff writer for Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- High school roundup: Mars upsets No. 4 Hampton in GAC
- Central Valley gains measure of revenge on No. 1 West Allegheny
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Roundup: PUC schedules hearings for FirstEnergy rate increase; New-home sales almost flat in September; more
- Late TD lifts Penn Hills past Woodland Hills
- Fire at Flight 93 National Memorial hints at struggle to safeguard historic artifacts
- Running back depth, defense carries Thomas Jefferson past West Mifflin
- Royals take 2-1 lead in World Series after 3-2 victory over Giants
- Laurel Highlands clinches playoff berth with 49-21 victory over Albert Gallatin
- Knoch shuts down Yough, clinches playoff berth
- Corbett, Wolf resort to sticks, stones to attract attention