Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” debuted at the New York Film festival Friday and is earning critical raves.
Based on the acclaimed Yann Martel bestseller of the same name, “Life of Pi” centers on an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel (Suraj Sharma) who, following a jolting shipwreck, is lost at sea for 227 days. What makes the story’s narrative so compelling is that Suraj shares his lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
Over the years, Lee has emerged as one of the most visionary directors in Hollywood. Many of his films have emerged as critical darlings and awards seasons favorites. This includes “Sense and Sensibility” (1994), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), which earned him the Academy Award for Best Director.
Based on the film’s reviews, “Life of Pi” should cement Lee’s status as a brave and ambitious filmmaker.
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter said the striking fantasy film displays Lee’s strength as a storyteller.
“Technology employed by sensitive hands brings to vivid life a work that would have been inconceivable onscreen until very recently in ‘Life of Pi,’” writes McCarthy. “Ang Lee, that great chameleon among contemporary directors, achieves an admirable sense of wonder in this tall tale about a shipwrecked teenager stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, a yarn that has been adapted from the compellingly peculiar best-seller with its beguiling preposterousness intact.”
Variety’s Justin Chang praises the film for perfectly combining traumatic realism with whimsical imagery.
“A literal crouching tiger is merely one of many visual wonders in Ang Lee's ‘Life of Pi,’ a gently transporting work of all-ages entertainment that melds a harrowing high-seas adventure with a dreamy meditation on the very nature of storytelling. Summoning the most advanced digital-filmmaking technology to deliver the most old-fashioned kind of audience satisfaction, this exquisitely beautiful adaptation of Yann Martel's castaway saga has a sui generis quality that's never less than beguiling, even if its fable-like construction and impeccable artistry come up a bit short in terms of truly gripping, elemental drama.”
Rodrigo Perez of Indie Wire compares the visually striking film to “Avatar” and “Hugo” but declares that it surpasses both blockbusters since character development takes precedence over special effects.
“On par with the 3D prowess of James Cameron's ‘Avatar’ and Martin Scorsese's ‘Hugo,’ Lee utilizes stereoscopic technology to imbue the picture with the same sense of visual awe and wonder,” says Perez. “In short, ‘Life Of Pi’ is visual marvel and an extraordinary technological achievement. But perhaps what makes the picture better than both ‘Avatar’ and ‘Hugo’ is that character, soul and emotion are paramount in its mind over visual pyrotechnics.”
The Wrap’s Leah Rozen writes that although “Life of Pi” is a grandiose spectacle it also presents a relatable spiritual journey.
“Lee has made a film that’s marvelously simple and yet simultaneously complex,” says Rozen. “On one level, this is a magical tale of survival, with boy and tiger facing off, at least initially, against each other as well as the elements. On a deeper level, it’s a thematically elegant meditation on the role that faith plays in our lives and actions.”