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Breathtaking vision and a deep emotional core

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 21, 2012

  • Life Of Pi is a tour-de-force of technical wizardry, but such gorgeous wrapping would mean nothing without a deep emotional core – and Ang Lee elicits stunning performances from his cast

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Drama/Action/Romance. Suraj Sharma, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Vibish Sivakumar, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu. Director: Ang Lee.

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) experiences film-making in 3D for the first time with this handsome adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Yann Martel.

Life Of Pi is the first film since Avatar to fully exploit the eye-popping format, immersing us in the central character's water-logged odyssey, including a terrifying sequence in angry seas reminiscent of Titanic.

The hefty premium levied by cinemas to wear the uncomfortable plastic spectacles is worth every penny.

Ang's vision is breathtaking and entire sequences have been masterfully choreographed to take full advantage of the depth that 3D brings to the big screen.

A school of flying fish darts straight at the camera, causing us to duck and weave; the walls of a freshwater pool seem to stretch down into inky blackness forever; and shards of moonlight break through overlapping tree canopies laden with chattering meerkats.

It's a tour-de-force of technical wizardry.

Yet all of this gorgeous wrapping would mean nothing without a deep emotional core, and once again, Ang elicits stunning performances from his ensemble cast that leave us choking back tears.

In a slight departure from the source novel, screenwriter David Magee uses a simple framing device to draw us into the narrative.

An inquisitive writer (Rafe Spall) turns up unexpectedly at the door of Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan), having been told the stranger's life story deserves to be immortalised in print.

In flashback, Pi recounts his youth as the son of a circus owner (Adil Hussain), who decided to sell the family business in Pondicherry and emigrate to Canada with his wife Gita (Tabu) and two boys.

A raging storm causes the Japanese freighter to overturn and young Pi (Suraj Sharma) escapes in a lifeboat along with a zebra, orang-utan, hyena and a tiger called Richard Parker.

The rest of the clan, including Pi's older brother Ravi (Vibish Sivakumar), perish at sea.

As the days pass, the predators prevail until just Richard Parker and Pi remain, trapped together in a vast expanse of water.

"I'm afraid his last meal will be a skinny, vegetarian boy," quips the trembling hero in voiceover.

Life Of Pi is a deeply moving tribute to the endurance of the human spirit in the aftermath of senseless tragedy. Suraj, who has never acted before, is mesmerising, plucking our heartstrings in close-up as his character is flung repeatedly through the emotional wringer.

He doesn't strike a single false note and his relationship with the tiger is beautifully realised in tense, humorous and touching scenes.

Claudio Miranda's sumptuous cinematography ravishes the senses, enhanced by slick digital effects, which bring the menagerie of two- and four-legged species to life.

Ang marshals a dizzying array of elements with jaw-dropping ease, proving that substance and style can be blissful bedfellows in the right hands.

Comedy/Musical/Romance. Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, John Benjamin Hickey. Director: Jason Moore.

Glee meets Bring It On with the sassy swagger of Clueless in Jason Moore's unabashedly feel-great musical comedy about an all-girl a cappella group hoping to pitch slap their well-rehearsed rivals at a national singing competition.

Pitch Perfect lives up to its title, delivering a menagerie of memorable characters who are determined to chart a course through life with lyrical guidance from Madonna, Kelly Clarkson and Jessie J.

These feisty femmes include an overweight freshman, who refers to herself as Fat Amy so other girls don't do it behind her back, and a softly spoken beatboxer called Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), who wouldn't look out of place in a Japanese horror.

"I set fires to feel joy!" she whispers creepily.

Kay Cannon's script, adapted loosely from the book by Mickey Rapkin, is truly an embarrassment of riches, peppered with deliciously tart one-liners.

Adjectives and nouns are prefixed with "aca" to create a snappy lingo and surprisingly, we never grow tired of this simple gimmick, from one girl gasping, "Aca-scuse me?!" to a suitor telling his beloved, "We're gonna have aca-children. It's inevitable."

Waspish competition commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks), who was once a member of The Menstrual Cycles, set the tone beautifully in the opening frames.

"Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy," opines Gail as she stares lustily at a group of teen hunks in perfect harmony.

The unlikely heroine, however, is Beca (Anna Kendrick), who arrives at Barden College with dreams of becoming a music producer, to the chagrin of her father, university professor Dr Mitchell (John Benjamin Hickey).

Pitch Perfect lives up to its title, delivering aca-mazing musical performances.

Anna brings emotional depth to her plucky heroine, while Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy scene steals with antipodean gusto, threatening to take down one male rival as only she knows how.

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  • Brizz_Tony  |  December 21 2012, 9:30AM

    I saw Life of Pi at a preview. It is superb!