Life of Pi – the taming of Richard Parker

life of pi tigerLast time I had to watch an actor carry a movie on his lonesome at sea was a bearded Tom Hanks screaming ‘Wilson!’. Instead of a volleyball, here we get first-time actor Suraj Sharma, spending his time warily circling an incredibly well-realised CGI tiger.

Based on a 2001 Booker prize-winning novel by Yann Martel and directed by Ang Lee, Life of Pi tells the tale of a teenage boy – Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel – shipwrecked in the Pacific, stranded in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Visual feast on the high seas
This film really is something to savour visually. It’s an artistic triumph. Sadly these days a lot is given away in the trailer, but that shouldn’t put you off. Ang Lee and the effects team work wonders; from soaring, majestic whales and flying fish, through to playful meerkats and luminous plankton – and that’s not even mentioning the tiger!

Sometimes effects suffer from being too real or overdone. In this case Richard Parker is as believable as they come, prowling round the boat attacking whatever comes close. Despite the fantastic visuals on display I must confess, I’m still not sold on 3D. Whilst Lee does work subtle wonders with the format, I felt the film still had the magic without it.

life of pi calm seaTruth, perception and belief
As well as the visuals, another revelation is Suraj Sharma, a young first-time actor who fought off 3000 other hopefuls to get the part. He’s a strong choice as Pi – coming across as intelligent and thoughtful, with an eternally positive nature and good heart.

Coupled with Lee’s assured direction and story-telling style, the film is an exhilarating journey, making you think about the power of belief and resilience of the human spirit. Whether you go 2D or 3D, this film is a powerful, well-told story and a visually uplifting delight. The perfect Christmas antidote for those that may have indulged in one mince pie too many.

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