For a long time it seemed that Yann Martel’s novel would prove to be unadaptable with the budget spiralling out of control and directors coming and going. But here it is on Blu-ray and DVD, having won four Oscars and a heap of praise for its technical achievements.
A writer (Rafe Spall) pays a visit to Pi Patel (Khan) to hear the story of how, at 16-years old, he survived more than 200 days at sea after a shipwreck. Pi tells him the fantastical tale of how he shared his lifeboat with surviving animals from his family’s zoo and finally struck up a cautious co-dependence with tiger Richard Parker.
Ang Lee’s adaptation is beautifully shot and the film certainly merits the awards recognition for the cinematography and effects work. The stand-out sequences provoke a real sense of wonder and remind even the most jaded and anti-3D filmgoers of the possibilities of the technology (in a cruel twist of fate, the effects company Rhythm And Hues went bankrupt). Suraj Sharma’s performance shouldn’t go unnoticed, as he keeps us invested in the human story even as the effects team works its magic.
There are a few problems. Despite Sharma’s work there are a few lags during the two-hour runing time and for all its visual splendour there aren’t enough moments of real emotional connection. A few heavy-handed moments hammer the point home when a lighter touch would have done.
The replacement of Tobey Maguire with Rafe Spall was inconsequential as the scenes essentially serve to establish the largely benevolent atmosphere of the film. But the main problem that fans of the book will have is that Martel’s ambiguity is played down with a conclusion that allows for no alternate interpretation.
However, Lee doesn’t shy away from showing the bleaker moments of Pi’s struggle, and the shipwreck is particularly gut-wrenching. And even though it moves a little slowly and is perhaps not as profound as it thinks it is, Life Of Pi is simply beautiful to look at.