Weekend Roundup: Quick Thoughts on Life of Pi

Hello all! It’s been quite a hectic weekend for me – one company holiday party and a farewell dinner for a friend who’s moving out of town. But I was able to fit in a trip to the cinema to catch Life of Pi before its last theatrical run. We were expecting an empty theater at 10:30 in the morning but the theater was actually about half full. So the Oscar nominations surely has an impact on those films being nominated. Speaking of award season, apparently the Golden Globes was on tonight (check out Sati’s entertaining musings on the telecast). I found out about it as I was on Twitter, but really I had no desire to watch it for some reason. Just wasn’t quite ready for the self-congratulatory award season yet, despite my Oscar reaction post this past week.

Truth be told, I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so I haven’t quite finished my review of Zero Dark Thirty yet, but I’ll say this though, the film certainly deserved the Oscar nomination for Best Picture and I’m even more convinced that Kathryn Bigelow is robbed big time out of the directing nod.

Anyway, here’s my quick review of…

Life of Pi

LifeOfPiPosterMy friend Sarah M. has given me her review a few months ago and she absolutely loved the film. She also loved the book but I actually never read the famous novel by Yann Martel. It tells a fascinating story of an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel (Suraj Sharma) who survives 227 days being stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The film was told in flashback by the older Pi (Irrfan Khan). How the boy and the tiger got their names are quite amusing, but more than mere amusement, the story attempts to explore the journey of spirituality and faith. Pi was an earnest seeker, searching for life’s meaning and grasping with the concept of ‘God’ by embracing various beliefs, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, all at once.

“If you believe in everything, you will end up not believing in anything at all,” Pi’s father told him. A profound word of wisdom indeed, though in the end neither the protagonist nor the film itself follow such an advice. Instead, it would rather subscribe to the [much more popular] notion that ‘all roads lead to Heaven.’ I find the spirituality aspect very intriguing… it’s a story that ‘will make you believe in God,’ said the protagonist as he began to tell his life story. It’s a rather abstract concept of God however, as the film does not make a stance for or against one way or the other. It’s simply presenting the protagonist’s interpretation of who God is.

As a fantastical film, it’s beautifully-made by Ang Lee, who’s known for his knack for genre-jumping. Just look at his filmography and you’ll find he’s quite bold in his film choices. So it’s only natural that he picked a fantasy adventure and pick what people deemed an ‘unfilmmable’ novel. Right from the opening sequence, it’s clear we’d be treated to a visual feast. Nice to see that the 3D was worth it, it enhances the experience without being overwhelming. The colors are so vivid, I find the night scenes even more beautiful.


Performance-wise I’m quite impressed by both actors playing Pi, as they both give an emotionally-engaging performance. The young Pi was played by Suraj Sharma in his big-screen debut, whilst the older Pi was played by a popular Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan. He’s not always very expressive, but for the most part, Sharma was able to make us sympathize with his character, which is quite a feat as most of the time he’s the only one on the screen with barely any dialog. The real star is perhaps Richard Parker, the beautiful Bengal tiger which shares most of the screen along with Pi. I was quite mesmerized by its beauty, it was quite a technical feat to combine the use of CGI and real-life tiger (you can watch the featurettes here). Despite never actually sharing a scene together on set, I thought the CGI of the tiger interacting with Pi was pretty realistic. That storm scene was also pretty incredible to watch.

In summary, I do appreciate the hopeful and optimistic message, but at the same time it’s not really as spiritually-enlightening as it is beautiful to look at. It may not change your views about spiritual faith, but it might restore or affirm your faith in the magic of cinema. This is a film that’s best viewed on the big screen and I’m certainly glad I did see this in its 3D glory.

4 out of 5 reels

So what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

42 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Quick Thoughts on Life of Pi

    1. French film fun? Sounds cool, what movies are you watching? I find it hard to write a review for ZDT but I generally agree with your assessment.

      1. I’ve watched several things from “Mon Oncle” to the more recent “Heartbreaker”. I have several reviews written and will be tossing them out pretty soon. I just love French cinema…well, a lot of it.

  1. Ted S.

    Don’t think I’ll be seeing Life of Pi anytime soon, maybe when I finally upgrade to a 3D projector then maybe I’ll give it a rent. I’m not much of an Ang Lee fan, some of his films are good but most of them are not the kind I seek out.

    Didn’t see anything new over the weekend except Dredd last Thursday night. Just watched a lot of football since the season is almost over, couldn’t believe it!

    1. That’s cool that you’ll be upgrading to a 3D projector, Ted! I’d be curious to see how that looks like [hint, hint] 😀

      Ah yes, football season. I’m curious about Dredd too, but not in a huge rush to see it.

  2. Nice review. I’ve seen Life of Pi recently but didn’t like it as much as you did. Visually it was stunning, but I somehow never cared much for his character. Maybe because you already know he will survive…

    1. Ahah, yeah I suppose we do know he’d survive, but I think his journey is pretty incredible so he got my sympathy. The visuals overpower the spiritual message of the story I think, in the end it was watered down (pardon the pun).

    1. That’s cool that you’re gonna try to see everything before the big day. I still have to see Lincoln and Amour, we’ll see if I could get to ’em.

  3. It looks like we’re on a very similar wave length at the moment Ruth. Both of reviewing it at the same time and agreeing on many points. I also described it as reaffirming the magic of cinema. 🙂
    Great minds think alike Ruth. Nice one!

  4. Nice write up Ruth! I thoroughly enjoyed Life of Pi and I’m glad you did too. It really is a spectacular looking film and one that definitely needs to be seen at the cinema. Some have said that it explains too much, especially at the end, but I thought it still left plenty to dwell upon.

    As for my weekend viewing, I saw The Imposter (excellent), Hyde Park on Hudson (average), A Late Quartet (patchy) and Lincoln (very good indeed), so quite a hefty weekend for me!

    1. Hi Terry. I made good on my promise on seeing this, right? 🙂 Yes, I’m glad I caught this on the big screen. I think how people view the spiritual aspects depends on one’s own belief, so for me I find it wanting. But still, it was good that the film explores the subject of faith.

      Wow, that’s a lot of movies you saw this weekend, good for you! Too bad Hyde Park on Hudson wasn’t very good, the trailer looked like fun and I like Bill Murray.

  5. You’re right about seeing it on the big screen. A TV will simply not do this film justice. Cinematography, visual effects and score were all incredible. Ang Lee’s talents as a storyteller are highly evident in his directing this masterpiece.

    1. You’re right Mark, I think my not-big-enough TV screen won’t display the glory of the shipwreck scenes. I don’t know if I’d consider this a masterpiece but I won’t hold it against anyone who does either.

  6. You found much of the same issues I did with the film. These, however, didn’t bother me much and I just took the story by what it was instead of subscribing to what the film intended for us to get from it. Excellent survival tale, excellent special effects, awesome visuals, good acting and a thought-provoking ending. Richard Parker should have been nominated ! 😛

    1. I think if one views it as a survival tale, it is indeed an incredible journey. Ahah yeah, Richard Parker should get a nod indeed, would be cool to see one presenting at the Oscars 😉

  7. It might not change your views on faith, but kudos to it for even adressing faith or spirituality at all, as so many modern movies don’t. I think it could have been a stronger spiritual movie if it hadn’t taken a step back at the end, there, if you know what I mean…

    Still, I liked it a lot. I had to put it in my top ten for the year, I really did think it was awesome.

    1. Valid point there Fogs. So many modern movies don’t address faith these days, but those that did are mostly afraid to show their convictions (if they have any that is). Seems like the few filmmakers who did end up getting so much flack. Yep, I totally know what you mean about it taking a step back, but then again I can’t say I’m surprised that they did.

      Glad you like it so much though, I do think it’s award-worthy.

  8. Can’t wait for your ZDT review! I saw Silver Linings Playbook (review coming soon). I was going to see Lincoln but decided against it because I was feeling a bit knackered (love the word) and stayed in to watch Pitch Perfect (home video review also coming) … oh yeah and I scanned the GG for some Tina/Amy action. They did not disappoint!

    1. I’ve only gone far enough as to give my cliff-notes reaction to the studio after the screening, but for sure my ZDT review will be a positive one. Ahah, I like your use of the word ‘knackered.’ I suppose that’s not a good idea to see Lincoln when you’re feeling tired. I might catch that one on Blu-ray. I completely missed GG but just wasn’t in the mood for it.

  9. Nice review, Ruth! I liked this one a lot upon first viewing but found out it doesn’t hold up too well for a second one. I prefer the book. But the visuals in the movie are incredible.

    1. Hi Fernando, I figure the book is still better but still it sounds like it does it justice. When you read it, did you go ‘how in the world are they gonna film THAT??’

  10. Great review! Same rating for me. I was wowed more by the look of the film than the overall product.

    Over the weekend, I finally saw Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, Compliance, among other things. Loved all three films by the way. 🙂

  11. They say that Life of Pi is 2012’s Avatar, but I love Life of Pi more. I do think now the how ‘the story will make you restore your faith to God’ makes us the viewer have high hopes from the start. I think the ending is far more about friendship, and not so bold about spirituality. Perhaps they made it like that to leave it to us the viewer to believe which ending is true or not. But glad you loved it, Ruth. I agree, we should see this one on the big screen.

  12. Yep, visually amazing. I found the film not necessarily one that would make anyone believe in God but I did find it beautiful.

    A little odd to expect us to be afraid for Pi in his adventure when we already knew that he would survive given that he is telling his story from the beginning.

    I liked it a lot though. Glad you did too.

    1. Hi T, yeah I suppose the ‘God’ that the protagonist ends up ‘believing’ is an abstract one. You’re right it is indeed beautiful and it makes me appreciate even more the world that our Creator built, y’know what I mean? My church just started on a series called The Artist, so it was perfect timing that I saw this film.

      There’s definitely Someone looking out for him out on the ocean. I wasn’t so much afraid for Pi, as I know he’d survive, but still astounded by what he goes through.

  13. I should probably go to see this in the cinema but after my last trips to the films that were visual feasts I don’t quite feel like it’s a good idea, as the style over substance thing really bothers me. I will definitely catch it on DVD though, because of my long-lasting tradition of seeing all Best Picture nominees. But I may end up liking this, I don’t think I ever disliked Ang Lee’s movie.

    1. I hear ya Sati, the ‘style over substance’ thing like in Gangster Squad is indeed disappointing, but this is fortunately not one of them. There’s actually a lot to ponder and reflect on, and the character is quite well-developed.

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