Life of Pi… is a visual masterpiece

I enjoy everything and anything incremental that a movie can offer. Apart from the duration of the movie. So, watching a moving at IMAX usually means that I come out a touch more satisfied than usual. But IMAX or no-IMAX, Life of Pi is a visually breathtaking film. Its a giant canvas of a goddamn brilliant painter who’s used colours and patterns to near-perfection. Also, like most good paintings, its a poetry. Except that its a touch too long.

As I sat through the 2 hour 7 minutes of Life of Pi, there were several moments of drifting in your thoughts as you spend a minute too much thinking about what you’ve just seen. 127 minutes isn’t a lot, but is long enough. I can compare it to that stoic test match innings where the batting and the bowling are intense and awesome, but because neither there are wickets falling or runs being scored, I may have a tendency to switch channels, just to take a break.

I have already said it- the movie works like a spell. It keeps you mesmerised with some awesome imagination. The zoom outs and camera angles that accentuate Pi’s state of mind, his loneliness, the vastness of his world, and the insignificance of his ordeal, all at the same time. The surreal transformation between real and imaginary, the choice of colours, the scene of the ocean, and the empathy you feel all through Pi’s journey. It’s digital wizardry at its best. It makes you forget that you’ve seen much better performances from Irfan Khan and Tabu. Tabu has a small role, but she has traditionally proven her strengths in 30-seconds scenes. Somewhere, the need to have an “accent” (Indian, Indianized, Americanized, whatever) restraints dialogue delivery. Think for a moment – These are Patels in Pondicherry. So, Gujarati accent is good. Tamil accent is good. Even a bit of French accent is good. But the accent is a mishmash of several fake american indian accents. One of the big drawbacks of the movie for me was that I didn’t connect much with Suraj Sharma (Pi). I think his performance is just about average. It does not spoil the movie, but it doesn’t elevate the movie either.

Richard Parker is awesome. While there are several frames where you wonder whether Mr. Parker is real enough (which probably was the point), the close-in expressions of Parker are  a wonder to behold. They seem to be a right balance of a zoo-ed animal who’s wild enough.

The background score is superb. I loved it.

Somewhere, I felt, that the last 15 minutes of the movie damage it a lot. There is a “believe in God” angle that’s overplayed, and a drone of a closure as the Japanese officials interview Pi. You are better off re-reading the book sections after the meerkats incident. That section of the book is of profound importance but does not come out as strongly in the movie.

In short, Ang Lee stays true to most of the book, and has delivered a spectacular movie. Its near-Avatar, visually/digitally speaking, and several luminescent-blue frames will keep reminding you of Avatar. It’s worth a watch. In a theatre.

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