Samuel James has provided a review for each one of the nominees.
In most recent years, we experience that one hit which embarks us on an unforgettable adventure and will want to continuously revisit. Following in similar footsteps to Avatar and Hugo, the audience are whisked into a magical world that is filled with stunning effects. Visually, you cannot go much higher than what is in Life Of Pi and the film also gifted for the breath-taking experience in 3D and makes it worth every penny. On the other hand, along on this jaw-dropping and eye-popping journey we venture on an emotionally engaging ride that could bring tears to the audience’s eyes. Therefore, director Ang Lee balances the scales of visual magic with thought-provoking drama and results in a piece of cinematic treasure.
Based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel, Life Of Pi was adapted onto the screen by director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and in his latest feature, we go on an adventure beyond anything he has ever done. Life Of Pi has themes and moral ethics all over it which play a vital part in the film. For example, it has a firm hold on elements of religion. The relationships between the characters are representations of tragedy as well as the beauty and faith that religion beholds. It also shows the goodness in the world and how both mankind and beasts signify this through communication and natural instincts. Life Of Pi is evidently Lee’s greatest visual achievement so far and with his use of restrained emotions trailing behind from his previous films, this is another one of his masterpieces.
In the leading role of Pi is Suraj Sharma who, similar to Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire, takes the audience on his courageous journey from a somewhat poor Asian environment to exposing his inner self. Pi is a character filled with passion and bravery. So, when he survives the shipwreck and is cast out to sea on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, the audience are literally there with him. In Sharma’s remarkable performance, we experience a lot of heartbreak, love, loyalty and at times, suspense. Sharma’s portrayal of Pi is not quite close enough for Academy Award consideration but it is still one of the greatest young star performances of the year. Meanwhile Irrfan Khan, who ironically had a role in Slumdog Millionaire portrayed Pi as an adult who is telling his story to a young writer. Although Sharma’s performance indicates exactly what the experience is like when you’re there, Khan’s portrayal is slightly different and perhaps more thought-provoking as the elder Pi tells the audience of the after-effect and influence it had on his life. Therefore, both actors portrayed the character from two different perspectives and exemplified an important time in one’s life about self-discovery and love from within the heart.
Computer-generated imagery has always been the most ideal gimmick to boost a film’s profits following its release and most of the time; films have delivered only in that area. However, although Life Of Pi certainly does deliver on that visual standard with outstanding CGI effects, the film provides a new meaning and purpose to them. Practically every animal is fully computer-generated but the most important is the Bengal Tiger. This is not just any piece of impressive effects, let alone any tiger. What we have is that this animal has personality and we see this through its body language and facial expressions. It still has its predatory instincts by wanting to kill and eat its prey on the lifeboat, including Pi but at the same time, we can emotionally relate to him, especially after being given the unofficial name of Richard Parker from Pi. Therefore, considering that it is a full CGI character and that it is a tiger, ‘Richard Parker’ is a solid supporting character that creates a firm but unlikely connection between beasts and mankind.
If you observe Life Of Pi at a grand scale, you’ll notice that it delivers the same type of charm and inspiration from the Indian culture as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, but at a slightly higher scale of emotional warmth. The film may have had an occasionally slow build-up to the shipwreck, but Life Of Pi will make you chuckle, make you feel a balanced mix of joy and heartbreak and will leave you with a huge grin on your face. As far as Academy Awards are concerned, it has a strong chance and it has shown that there is even more to 3D and computer-generated effects than eye candy and a money-grubbing gimmick. Nevertheless, Life Of Pi welcomes all audiences to enter the magic within and provides an unforgettable experience.