Movie Review: “Life of Pi” – A Visual Spectacle

Written by Leo Panasyuk November 25, 2012

Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” is one of those few novel-to-film adaptations that not only adapt the source material well, but breathe fresh, new life into it. The film is based on an award-winning 2001 novel of the same name by Canadian author Yann Martel. I do remember reading the novel back in grade six but I remember so little from it that it became difficult to draw parallels and notice divergences. So, what could be interesting about a guy stuck at sea with a tiger, you say? You’re about to find out.

The Journey of a Lifetime

The star of the film is the eponymous Pi Patel, a boy who grows up in India before having to move to Canada with his family in his late teens. They cross the ocean as passengers on a cargo freighter filled with animals, among which are a Bengal tiger (which is important for later). When the ship gets caught in an intense storm, Pi manages to escape on a lifeboat but is unable to save his family who go down with the ship. Pi then becomes stranded aboard the lifeboat with not only a small amount of supplies but the Bengal tiger and a few other animals. As time wanes on and Pi battles hunger, fear and loneliness, he befriends the tiger – whose name is Richard Parker – and the two begin to depend on each other to survive.

One of Heart, Mind and Soul

“Life of Pi” is as much a spiritual journey as it is a physical one. Adrift amid the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Pi’s time is not only one of survival but of reflection. Through Pi’s cohabitation with the tiger does he learn his true strength and as he is pushed to his limits, he overcomes the many obstacles in his path while trying to live long enough to see civilization once more. Water is a recurring motif throughout the film and its function within it represents reflection, purity, and life itself. It also represents renewal because by the end of his journey, Pi is a much different person than he was when he began.

The relationship between man and animal is an integral part of the film.


And you thought “Avatar” was something…

To call “Life of Pi” ‘visually great’ does not do enough justice to how beautiful and magnificent the film actually looks. A more appropriate term would be ‘visually arresting’: you are literally left speechless and motionless at the technical achievements this film showcases again and again. The film has so many instances of jaw-dropping visuals and employs a very wide colour palette. A favourite shot of mine is one which occurs twice in the film: it is an overhead shot of the lifeboat at night floating amid the still water with the stars reflected in it. For a while, it literally looks like the boat is floating through space and it’s these kinds of scenes which make “Life of Pi” the visual spectacle that it really is.

The visuals in this film make those of “Avatar” look bland by comparison.

 A story of courage

“Life of Pi” is definitely one of those films that will stick with me for a very long time. Undoubtedly. Even though the first half hour is relatively slow and full of character development, the film firmly plants its feet soon after and immerses you in a world which may seem familiar, but is very, very different and very, very beautiful.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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