Film Rating: 4.5/5
Yann Martel’s 2001 novel The Life of Pi was deemed “impossible to film.” Of course, this film has been passed around Hollywood over the last several years as many directors, including M. Night Shyamalan, have gotten on board to film the tale, then dropped the project because it is such a difficult story to tell. The novel spent years on the best seller list and sold more than seven million copies so there was definitely a market of movie goers that wanted to see this book put into a movie form. So why was it so difficult to film? I saw the movie on Wednesday night and I was shocked and amazed at the visual spectacular that I witnessed.
First of all, the majority of the film (I’d estimate nearly 70% of the 2 hour+ film) was shot with only the main character, Pi, and a Bengal tiger in the middle of the ocean. So, how is a director to keep the audience interested when there is only one person who can actually talk? There is a lot of inner dialogue, danger with the tiger (which is to be expected), and intense storms that Pi must survive in a little, tiny lifeboat.
The film scenes that include other actors have mostly unknown, Indian actors. As the role of the writer who is interviewing Pi, Tobey Maguire was going to be on the screen; he even shot several scenes but was later cut because he would have been the only known actor on the screen. I think it was a good choice to cast no-name actors because the audience is required to focus on the story line alone instead of trying to figure out where they may have seen a particular actor before. In the role of Pi, 17-year-old Suraj Sharma is the perfect actor. He, like most great actors, physically changes as the movie progresses. Pi is, of course, stranded for a long period of time, and Suraj reportedly dropped 37 pounds for the role. Suraj made me believe that his boat-mate, Richard Parker (the tiger) is about to kill him all the time. Reportedly, the tiger is both CGI and real but nevertheless, the tiger is frightening in every sense.
The fact that this film is mostly made in the water, with HUGE storms (yes, several that are unbelievably frightening) made this film a huge undertaking. Although I have not read the book, the movie was amazing and beautiful. It promises on the poster to be the “next Avatar”. While it is not similar to Avatar in most senses, there were some sequences that reminded me of the epic tale. There were beautiful sequences of the stars, a glow in the dark ocean, and a land (not gonna ruin it for you!) that would remind you of an Avatar location. All in all, it was a beautiful film and I highly recommend it. It is rated PG and there were several children in the theatre; I personally thought it was rather frightening in certain circumstances and I don’t think I would take my small children but the children that were in the theatre with us didn’t seem to mind. The film is visually beautiful, the message is inspiring and it was nice to see a film with a good premise that did not need blood, gore, or profanity to carry it through. The film was tragic without being bloody and Pi’s exasperation was felt without the need for profanity. It was a film I’d feel comfortable showing my entire family and I appreciated that aspect of its production. If you have time this Thanksgiving Break, give it a chance and let me know what you thought!