Ang Lee's 3D adaptation of Life of Pi is 'a masterpiece'

Dec 20, 2012

Lee's dazzling movie of Yann Martel's best-selling novel leaves the film critics in awe

What you need to know
Hollywood adventure film Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel's best-selling novel of the same name, opens at UK cinemas today. The film is directed by Taiwanese-American Ang Lee, best known for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain.

Life of Pi tells the story of a teenage Indian zookeeper's son who loses his family when they are shipwrecked on the way to Canada with their animals. Pi must survive at sea, adrift on a boat he shares with a hungry tiger.

Pi is played by different actors at different ages, including newcomer Suraj Sharma, as the teenage Pi. Hindi film star Tabu appears as Pi's mother and Gerard Depardieu plays the ship's cook.

What the critics like
To produce a coherent film from Martel's tricky novel would be achievement enough, says Olly Richards in Empire, "but Ang Lee has extracted something beautiful, wise and, at times, miraculous". It's like the work of Terrence Malick, "but with added laughs".

Lee is a director in his prime, says Tom Shone in The GuardianLife of Pi is full of surprises and immersed in the latest delights of 3D technology, but unlike some CGI films, it feels warm-blooded." Lee's pixels are animated by empathy."

"Lee has given us a masterpiece", says Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. This story of survival is "as elegant as it is epic", a grand adventure so cinematically bold and quietly profound, you might wish it "would never end". It's also the best use of 3D since Avatar.

What they don't like
A word of warning for the traditionalists, says Tom Huddleston in Time Out. Life of Pi is steeped in CGI. But Lee handles the effects with surety, and mostly manages "to avoid both syrupy sentiment and hazy magical thinking".

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Far from a masterpiece it's a sentimental fairytale shot through with mawkish dimestore spirituality. Yes it's pretty to look at in 3D but for anyone above the age of 12, it's just a little too syrupy and undeserving of the hype.