Put simply, Life of Pi is a beautiful film. Beautifully shot, beautiful colours, beautiful scenery, and particularly breathtaking animal shots. If you've seen Ang Lee's other films, especially Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, you'll recognise his style.
It's only made better by the use of 3D, and it is strongly suggested that you see it in this format.
Irrfan Khan, who you may recognise from The Amazing Spider-Man, is the adult Pi Patel retelling his story to a writer looking for a new story idea (Rafe Spall), but the success of the film really rests on the shoulders of Suraj Sharma, the actor who plays the young Pi.
The premise of the book and film is that there is an Indian boy surviving in a boat with a tiger for 227 days. He got there after losing his entire family (and a zoo) in a shipwreck and being left adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
The tiger in question is so convincing that I actually found it necessary to look up whether Sharma acted alongside a real tiger or not. The makers of the film have paid extreme attention to detail – the tiger gets thinner and its colours fade as the film goes on, and Pi becomes more and more tanned after hundreds of days at sea.
From a story perspective, there are so many near-magical elements that this is practically a fairy story. A glowing sea, a terrible storm, an island that eats people at night, a hundred or so friendly meerkats, a miraculous arrival – it all sounds incredible. Perhaps too incredible.
This is where the ending of the film comes in. Some people dislike it: they feel it is a cop-out of some sort, that it detracts from the rest of the story and undermines it. I found that it added to it, and I actually thought it was a clever comment on what we choose to believe, especially with the ongoing undertones of religion in the film (Pi thinks his story can make the listener believe in God). We can choose a beautiful and far-fetched story that makes us feel good, or a realistic and believable one that is difficult to come to terms with.
This is a moving, masterfully shot, and highly intelligent film. It is definitely recommended. 9/10