Andy Stuckey, Ryan Maddux
Greensburg Daily News
Ang Lee’s latest cinematic endeavor is the adaption, Life of Pi (PG).
In the movie, a young man (Suraj Sharma) survives a horrific shipwreck only to be stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Their struggle for survival leads to an amazing journey of adventure and revelation.
Ryan: I haven’t had the chance to read the book (written by Yann Martel). I also wasn’t too blown away by the advertising campaign for the movie — especially the television spot that said the movie was “the next Avatar” (and no, I’m not on the Avatar bandwagon). Thankfully I was pleasantly smitten with the movie and think that it’s a solid film. The movie is not without its flaws (a sagging middle act that is difficult to watch at times) but Life of Pi is a relevant coming-of-age tale that tackles some fairly heavy issues in a very nuanced manner.
Andy: The build up to Life of Pi certainly made it seem like a questionable movie. Most of the early buzz around it was in the context of filmmakers attempting to make movies out of “unfilmable” novels, with most of the conversation centering around Life of Pi and The Cloud Atlas. Furthermore, as Ryan mentioned, the ad campaign made Life of Pi look like a ridiculous CGI mess. Fortunately, the actual movie is much more subtle than most of the buzz indicated. Immediately compelling and consistently engaging, I found Life of Pi to be one of the most entertaining, uplifting films of the year.
Ryan: The aspect of the movie that I respected most was how the film tackled its philosophical issues. The lead character is not just on a journey of survival but he’s also on an existential journey.
The movie deals a lot with religion and spirituality (after all our lead character is a Hindu-Catholic who also follows Islam). But what I respect about the movie is that it’s not heavy-handed in a preachy sort of way, but it’s also not a complete feel-good New-Age inspired tale where everyone is singing “Kumbaya” at the end of the film.
The film deals with its themes in a very straight-forward manner that leaves the audience with a lot to digest when the film concludes. While the movie paints religion in an affirmative light, it also expounds the virtues of storytelling, or more specifically, how people use storytelling to process and help explain their place in the world as well as the world around them. I’m sure not everyone might see eye-to-eye with all the religious themes explored in the film, but I do think most people will appreciate the film’s insistence on the importance of imagination in a person’s world.
Andy: While Ang Lee’s steady and inventive direction and Yann Patel’s amazing story continue to get much of the conversation about Life of Pi, it would be unfair to overlook a couple of fantastic acting performances. Both Suraj Sharma (young Pi) and Irrfan Khan (adult Pi) give inspired performances as the title character.
The story unfolds as a young frustrated novelist interviews Pi as an adult about his story. This means that Khan is charged with the task of narrating the film, a device that could have been awkward and disastrous to the narrative. Instead, he exudes ethos from the very beginning of the film. Within the first five minutes, you are ready to settle in and listen to this guy tell his story. That strong foundation is buttressed by Suraj Sharma’s performance as a young man alone on a small boat with a tiger. Stranded at sea has to be one of the biggest challenges an actor can face, and in his first ever performance, Sharma nails it.
Life of Pi is a compelling, interesting, and well executed movie, earning a strong B+.