Ang Lee’s astonishing adaptation of Yann Martel’s fantastical bestseller makes it hard to believe how anyone dubbed Life of Pi unfilmable.
After warmly inviting us into a comical and colourful world, the story hurtles through the eye of a storm during a shipwreck that could rival Titanic for seat-clutching trauma, and pitches us into the middle of the Pacific on a lifeboat with one human survivor – Indian teenager Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) – and four unusual companions including a fully grown tiger called Richard Parker.
Although sometimes teetering on the edge of absurdity, the magic of the tale is in fact its believability, due mainly to Sharma’s incredible debut performance and a winning combination of stunning cinematography and (3D) special effects that haven’t worked so well since Avatar.
Thanks to the technical brilliance that permeates the film, you’ll find yourself forgetting that Sharma isn’t performing alongside a genuine tiger.
And despite being staged largely in a single boat, clever cinematography ensures there’s never a dull moment and that no two sea scenes look alike.
In fact, the relentless blue seascape is as deep, soulful and mesmerising as the film itself, almost becoming a character unto its own.
It moves seamlessly between laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenchingly emotional to make the viewer’s journey as up-and-down as Pi’s 227-day adventure, and you’ll love it all the more for it.
Although the film doesn’t add much to the novel, Lee’s faithful treatment of this miraculous tale is one of his best efforts yet.
In realising his stunning vision of a book they said wouldn’t make it to the screen, he’s proved that, even when you’re face to face with a man-eating beast in the middle of the ocean, nothing is impossible.