Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Life of Pi

“Life of Pi”. When I first heard of this film, I was expecting a pleasantly entertaining story about a delicious pastry who goes on an adventure to discover his inner self, or flavour, if you will. It was only when I saw a trailer for the film that I realised I was incredibly wrong. Whilst I did somewhat feel a sense of disappointment that I wouldn't be viewing an apple crumble travel the world, I was immediately enticed to go to my cinema and see it as soon as possible. Upon release, praise has been flung at this film with trebuchets. The visual effects, the acting, the story. It’s been tipped for numerous Oscar nominations, and has already had nods from the Golden Globes (including Best Film- Drama). Safe to say, my expectations were fucking high.

Pi Patel is answering questions from a developing writer, who is asking him about his “extraordinary story”, and who believes the story would make an incredible book. Pi begins to tell story. We are taken back to Pi as a child, given an amusing back story to his name and childhood, and progressively shown his life building up to the days where everything changed. Pi’s family owned a zoo, but when money is an issue, they decide to sell the animals and move to Canada. However, a large storm causes the ship to sink, killing all of Pi’s family and everyone else on board. Except Pi. He finds refuge on a small lifeboat and attempts to rescue himself and get home. Oh, the catch? He’s accompanied by an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

To put it simply, “Life of Pi” is an incredible film. Visually and emotionally, everything here is stunning. 75% of this film consists solely of a boy on a boat with tiger, yet you will not get bored, not once. Even at over two hours, this film simply does not stop giving. When I heard the plot for this film, I deemed it insane yet smart, unusual yet innovative, weird yet beautiful. “Life of Pi” is all of this, but more.

We see Pi at 4 different stages of his life, but we see him most at 16 years old. This Pi is played by Suraj Sharma, who made his debut in this film. It is one hell of a debut. Sharma plays the role of Pi with such passion and such emotion it’s easy to forget that he isn't talking to anyone other than himself. There are numerous scenes in which Pi shouts at Richard Parker (the tiger’s name, lest you forget), and you feel every emotion running through his unstable mind frame. Despite having nothing to compare yourself with in Pi, you feel everything he has gone through. And when you have a film that requires almost entirely on emotion to keep you interested, that is no easy feat.

For the majority of this film, Richard Parker was edited in during post-production. It is simply unnoticeable. There are scenes (especially in 3D, which I highly recommend in this case) where you won’t only feel like there’s a tiger on the boat, but you feel like there’s a tiger in the screening room. It all feels so real. As the film progresses, we are treated with numerous moments of sheer brilliance when it comes to visual effects. One scene in particular stands out, in which hundreds of jellyfish float around the boat lighting everything green, causing a breaching whale to hurtle upwards and out of the ocean, in a breathtaking explosion of green-lit water. It is the single best visual effects shot of any film from 2012. It is stunning.

Yet another aspect of the film worth considerable praise is the camera work  Long shots enforce Pi’s isolation at the beginning of scenes, but every time Richard Parker comes into the scene, the camera plunges into close ups, making the set feel tighter, safer. Through the use of framing and camera work, we are drawn to feel as Pi does. We begin alone, but are drawn to the help and companionship of the tiger, and immediately feel the warmth and help that he offers. The cinematography here helps too, with lighting playing a key role in the emotions we translate. Technically, this is a beautiful film.

You’ll find many words in this review have been used repetitively. The reason for this is that not many words exist that give this film the justice it deserves. I still find it difficult to put into words how blown away I was by “Life of Pi”. This is a time where all of the Oscar films are released. Django Unchained, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty; all of these are serious contenders. I hope “Life of Pi” is given the treatment it deserves, for it really is the best film I have seen in 2013 so far. (Look, I've held that back the whole review, and I would feel empty had I left it out. Just give me this one, yes? Yes? No? Oh, ok).

To Summarise: Though deemed as an un-filmable adaptation of a great book, “Life of Pi” is a visually, technically and primarily emotionally beautiful film. 

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