'There's an Indian man in French-Canada who has a story that will make you believe in God.' Our surrogate character, a Canadian author in French-India is told, whilst researching his newest book. We meet him as he meets the titular character, Pi Patel, and the movie that plays out is a visual illustration of their conversation.
Life of Pi is an adaptation of Yann Martel's multiple award winning, critically acclaimed bestseller. It follows the strange journey Pi takes when he and his family are immigrating to Canada, and tragedy strikes. He finds himself stuck on a dinghy with a Bengal Tiger, floating alone in the sea.
It's a well documented facts that animals make rubbish actors, and as such most of this film takes place in a wonderous world of CGI. The exotic and incredible locations created in the film also demand a certain level of computer jiggery-pokery. Admittedly, mostly it does hold up as wonderous - there are breathtaking sequences and striking images abound in Life of Pi. Nonetheless, the extent of CGI used here does become a weakness at times, not always look particularly believable. A problem that is all the more frustrating for the fact there was no real way around it.
The story here is quite unlike anything else, and a real triumph in simplicity. It starts out slow, telling us little stories, all more suited to fairy tales than real life. Of Pi's uncle, and a pool in France. Of how he came to be known as Pi. The scene is being set, as is the tone: this is a real world in which things happen as they do in stories. The main event itself is always bright and always hopefully and (CGI allowing) always beautiful, but behind it lurks a darkness. For some, that darkness may sour the experience.
There's a lot going on here - it's not a simple story, but it is told very simply. Herein is where the film really excels, it realises that it should not be trying to show off how complex it is, but rather concealing it and letting the audience themselves explore its depths.
The acting is a triumph throughout. Both actors who play Pi - but especially in his younger form - are fantastic and captivating. The Canadian author, too, pitches the role well, being blank enough to be a conduit for our own reactions to the story whilst still retaining a sense of personality.
Life of Pi isn't really like anything else, and for that reason alone it deserves a watch. That it also happens to be very well made, very well told and filled with awe certainly doesn't hurt. Highly recommended.