Ready for a bold statement? Ang Lee’s Life of Pi will be the first 3D movie to break through and win the Best Picture Oscar. Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s popular (and decorated) 2001 novel. To put it quite simply, there are some high spiritual and theological stakes in Life of Pi and the overall story is SO good that it will make you believe in God. Newcomer Suraj Sharma puts a valiant effort in the role of “Pi,” a performance that may land him more critical and impressive roles in the future. The work is reminiscent of great breakthrough performers like Rudy Youngblood (Apocalypto, 2006) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008); both were impressive turns but sadly will not catch any awards attention.
The central narrative thread in Life of Pi concerns the experiences of an Indian teenager with an unusual perspective on spirituality. Eventually, Pi and his family decide to travel overseas to Canada, due to the political climate in India. However, the ship carrying their animals (and Pi) unexpectedly sinks, stranding the young man aboard a life boat with a handful of wild animals as his companions – including, a Bengal tiger. Life of Pi is a fantasy story and a work of magical realism. But who will presumably by the story’s end see the metaphysical light, as will the audience.
Lee explains his preparation for the film at the New York Film Festival with such passion and delight. He speaks about getting Sharma properly prepared by placing him on a boat in the middle of the ocean and meeting a real life shipwreck survivor; Lee’s love for the project comes through, all four years in the making. It’s a directorial achievement that the Director’s branch of the Academy could easily get behind. Deeply resonant and soulful, Life Of Pi, is a harrowing journey of survival, and many said that the book could never be brought to life on the big screen. Speaking of big screen…how is the score you ask? What Mychael Danna achieves in Lee’s film has just placed him in the forefront of great film composers working today. He continues to impress with his musical range, envelopes the film’s message and thematic narrative in somber and beautiful melodic notes.
What Lee invents with the ocean and the integration of the tiger and the other animals is spectacular. He allows the mood of the film and the imagery to marry each other in a ceremonial experience that stands next to Sci-Fi epics that line your blu-ray library at home. Life Of Pi asks less of its story. It’s merely a technical achievement with predigested, unoriginal themes. 227 days Pi spends lost at sea, the time is filled with learning, strategy, fighting for hope, will, and the desire to find your true self in the process of baring mother nature and your impending doom. Take the journey. You won’t be disappointed.