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REVIEW: Life of Pi (PG)
EVER since Yann Martel's fantastic novel was first released in 2001, filmmakers have been trying to develop the project for the big screen.
But it proved the better of many, given that the story's core features a young man who ends up stranded in a boat in the middle of the Pacific - accompanied by a tiger called Richard Parker.
Quite obviously, technology was going to have to catch up with the human imagination a little more, and so it has done, judging by the stunning visuals which director Ang Lee and his team have achieved. Real and CG animals were used but it is almost impossible to see the joins; this is some of the finest computer animated work you'll ever have seen.
Lee is the man who won an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain and seems to have a knack for tackling incredibly different, and potentially difficult, material. He has occasionally been accused of being too restrained, but in Life Of Pi it appears that a lifetime's worth of exuberance finally unleashes, gloriously, over two wonderful hours in what's, amazingly, his first 3D project.
He does have cinematographer Claudio Miranda to thank in part, for contributing dazzlingly beautiful panoramas which will utterly take your breath away as Pi discovers all sorts of other life in the middle of the ocean.
Premium prices for 3D screenings are rarely worth paying, but this is, undoubtedly, the exception. Right from the credits, the image is multi-layered and full of life, even in the half hour build up to the main event as struggling writer (Rafe Spall, son of Timothy) listens to an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) recount the tale, beginning with his childhood in India.
After his father decides to relocate to America, taking the family's zoo, a storm overturns the Japanese freighter they are travelling on and Pi ends up orphaned, completely devoid of human company. The format then, truly, comes into its own.
Even though this material deals with animal casualties, David Magee's script and Lee's deft touch ensure that this is still suitable for children. We often don't see the moment of death, or when we do, it is handled with great sensitivity. I'm a softie, but in Life of Pi I teared up at the beauty and majesty of the images and the purity of the performances, not at the cruelty of nature.
Newcomer Suraj Sharma gives his all in an inconceivably masterful debut performance. Goodness knows what he must have had to endure during the filming of some of the sequences, especially the storms, but he anchors the middle section in triumphant fashion, fully engaging us in every aspect of his incredible journey. He handles it all with aplomb, from the humour to the awful tragedy of his situation.
The necessary final act loses the momentum somewhat but it still cannot erase the impact of the previous scenes, some of the most visually spectacular ever captured on screen.