The 90 minutes in the center of the 2 hours and 6 minutes of the movie “Life of Pi” is stunning movie magic by the director Ang Lee. his director of photography, Claudio Miranda and the people using digital imagery, not only to bring animals to life but also the worlds of sky, ocean and storms, in a beauty very seldom seen on screen. The main CGI effects are used for Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger, who is as much of a star as the actors. For those who may not know ,calling the tiger Richard Parker is the name of several people in real life and in fiction who have been shipwrecked.
From the moment we see Pi and Richard Parker in the lifeboat, along with a zebra, hyena, rat and Orangutan, the film takes on a life of its own. Leading up to that point seems too long and tedious but the middle of the film is a huge payoff. The next 90 minutes up to and including the meerkats is almost sheer magic even in its violent moments. Though the film is rated PG it should have been PG-13 as some of the violence of the survival of the fittest can become nightmares for young children. Some of the scenes will be hard to watch even for animal lovers though it shows nature not only in all its good but in its horror, too.
The story opens with a middle aged Pi, Irrfan Khan, telling a writer, Rafe Spall, of how he got his name as a young boy, played by Ayush Tandon, and the story of the teenage Pi, Suraj Sharma, being shipwrecked, losing his family and all his possessions and his survival. The middle aged Pi tells the writer what he has experienced which the latter is a little skeptical as most people are. The film roams around the subject of religions and seems to be the main thrust of the screenplay by David Magee but is forgotten in the spectacle presented in the mid section of the movie.
Suraj Sharma is new to films and does an adequate job but he doesn’t stand a chance when on screen with the animals. Irrfan Khan brings the needed gravitas but also is helpless with an image of thousands of flying fish, or a whale jumping with a starry night behind him, lingering in the mind of the audience.
“Life of Pi” must be seen on a big screen and in 3D. or otherwise you will miss the splendor of Ang Lee, Claudio Miranda and what is called ‘special effects’ today using CGI.