In fact, the only reason I have seen Life of Pi is because I caught a marathon of this year's Best Picture nominees. There are not a lot of acclaimed films that I have no desire to see, but I will admit that I wasn't looking forward to this one. So, how wrong was I?
Life of Pi is the story of a guy telling a story to another guy, who will turn the whole thing into a book. No...strike that. While technically true, that is merely the framework of this tale --- and I use "tale" for a reason. This is the impossible story of Pi (Suraj Sharma). Pi and his family were traveling by ship to Canada (along with their collection of zoo animals) when a freak storm hit and sank the ship, because God hates Canada. Pi survives the storm and reaches a lifeboat, but his is not the lone survivor. A wounded zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and Richard Parker (a Bengal tiger) all managed to squeeze into the lifeboat with Pi.
|It helps that Pi is 2' tall|
|Judging from this, it might be a while|
The acting in Life of Pi is understated. Irrfan Khan made for a fine narrator, and his impassive descriptions only emphasized the strangeness of what he described. Rafe Spall does not do much as the writer who is listening to Adult Pi tell his tale, but he provides as three-dimensional of a character as you're going to get with so few lines in the script; it's not tough work, but he plays his part. The bulk of the work is done by Suraj Sharma, as Pi in the story. As the only true character in the film, there is a lot depending on Sharma. He is not outstanding here, but he was likable.
|To put it another way, there is an awful lot of this.|
|His last words: "Depardon't do it!"|
Life of Pi was directed by Ang Lee, and it shows, although not in a flashy way. That's not really how Ang Lee movies work. The cinematography is lovely, the acting is understated, the theme has a bit of psychology to it, and the pacing is...well, a little leisurely. If you are familiar with Lee's work, all of that is to be expected. The man is nothing, if not consistent in those regards. I will admit that I was impressed by just how visually impressive this film was. You might not expect much to excite your senses with a guy on a boat for 2+ hours, but Life of Pi was surprisingly dazzling.
|Which is good, because 3D of floating gets old FAST|
Having said all that, Life of Pi was pretty good, but I wasn't thrilled by it. I feel the same way about a lot of Ang Lee's films, so it might just be me; I can appreciate the man's craftsmanship, but I've never really loved anything he's done. If I had to give a reason for that, it would be the pacing. As pretty as this movie was, it never excited me because it always felt like I had at least another hour of the movie left. This is a well-made and polished movie, but I prefer movies with a bit more flair, even if they are more distinctly flawed.
|Yes, I accused this movie of having no flair|
Speaking of flaws, I noticed some buzz around this movie, concerning its ending. I wouldn't really call it a "twist" ending, but I can understand some people feeling that it cheapened the story as a whole.
|Like a plot where someone starves, but also sometimes has dozens of fish|
On a side note, how strange is it that Roger Ebert can make absolutely no mention of the ending of Life of Pi in his 4-star review, but he shat a brick about the ending of The Usual Suspects? They are, essentially, the same plot device, right?