CAST: Suraj Sharma, Irfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Gerard Depardieu


RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

RATING: ****

Framed as a story being told by one man to another, this is a highly crafted tale of wondrously framed images which is left open to interpretation.

Using the most high-tech of methods for a film whose trailer suggests a block-busting thriller adventure, this is nonetheless an art-house flick at heart in the way it explores one man’s spiritual growth.

Director Ang Lee has taken Yann Martel’s bestseller and still touches on huge themes of self-discovery and spirituality, but at the heart of it all, this is a story about the most basic human need to survive.

Young Pi (Sharma) survives a disaster at sea, only to find himself cast adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. There’s also an orangutan, a zebra and a hyena, but it is the tiger with whom Pi forms an unlikely detente.

Older Pi (Khan) is telling his story of a scary adventure at sea to a writer who looks him up in Canada, so the story flits back and forth, with exotic images like Pondicherry, India of old vying for your attention with the most gorgeous 3D animated sequences of heavily saturated colour and impressionist-like beauty.

Without the ability to use his words to write or talk to someone Pi starts to question his very reasoning and existence. He experiences the depths of despair, but also sees the most amazing sights, all with only the tiger’s company.

The soul-stirring imagery is combined with seat-of-your-pants suspense – while you know Pi clearly survives because he is telling this story as an adult, you still gasp when the storm comes up and question just how he is going to survive the end of his water supply.

A big issue that is explored is Pi’s faith in a higher power and the images help to foster a sense of wonder about the ineffable.

By telling two parallel stories Lee leaves it up to the audience to decide what they believe really happened, but what remains with you is not the question of truth of fact, but that sense of the nebulous engendered by Pi’s journey.

If you liked… Cast Away or Into the Wild… you will like this.