When a cargo ship sinks during a storm in the Pacific Ocean, the sole survivor is 16-year-old Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) who shares a lifeboat with some of his dad’s zoo animals – including a Bengal tiger. Yann Martel’s widely read tale of spirituality and survival has become a technical marvel in the hands of Ang Lee – the 3D is stunningly realized and turns the ocean and landscapes into explosions of color and movement. The computer-generated tiger roaming Pi’s lifeboat is entirely believable, and newcomer Sharma offers a strong performance. Some may find the new-agey aspects a little dim, but it’s a compelling story and the tragedy behind it is undeniably moving.
2012-U.S.-China-Taiwan-India. 127 min. Color. Produced by Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark. Directed by Ang Lee. Screenplay: David Magee. Novel: Yann Martel. Cinematography: Claudio Miranda. Music: Mychael Danna. Song: “Pi’s Lullaby” (Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayashri). Cast: Irrfan Khan (Pi Patel, adult), Suraj Sharma (Pi Patel, 16), Gérard Depardieu (Cook), Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain.
Trivia: One scene is in widescreen. M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarón and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were allegedly considered for directing duties; Tobey Maguire for the part of the writer.
Oscars: Best Director, Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects. Golden Globe: Best Original Score. BAFTA: Best Cinematography, Visual Effects.
Last word: “Only one time in my career I had [a feeling the movie’s not gonna get made], it was for this movie. It was right before we started the physical pre-production. I pre-visualized the whole ocean part before we made the movie, I was that prepared. At one point they seemed to want to drop it because it was really risky. The budget we proposed was a lot higher than they expected, they wanted to [drop it]. After all, it’s a philosophical book and a literature property, it’s not Batman (laughs). So there was one point I thought I was gonna lose it, but once I get on something I have to finish it; I just kept persuading them and they turned around. One good thing was the international guys really stood behind this movie, they thought they could support this film. So these guys step up and that’s really good, and then they turned around.” (Lee, Collider)