I admit that I had my doubts about “Life of Pi.” All I knew from the trailers was that a teenager gets trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a hungry tiger — and survives! This seemed to be the acme of improbability. I have seen the Animal Planet shows on TV and I know that a skinny Indian teenager is no match for a Bengal tiger in his prime.
I was very pleasantly surprised. The lifeboat sequences are just on the near edge of possibility, so far as survival is concerned.
The kid is clever and badly wants to survive. Never give up is a good message for all of us.
Suraj Sharma is the young Indian actor who plays the teenager. He is also shown as a boy and as an adult by other actors, but Sharma holds the film together.
It is much too simple to say that “Life of Pi” is a shipwreck movie. It is more to do with the elastic nature of reality, the astonishing ability of the human mind to protect itself and even about the nature of our relationship with God than it is a simple shipwreck film. I found that on this level the film is entirely satisfactory and worth the admission price.
But there is more. This is a film produced and directed by Ang Lee. Lee amazed us a few years ago with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” He amazes us again with “Life of Pi.”
Writer David Magee (“Finding Neverland,” 2004) gives us a coherent and inventive script which is great. With this subject we might have drifted into absurdity quite easily.
But cinematographer Claudio Miranda gives us incredible, magical images to delight our eyes and to cause our senses to soar. Chilean born Miranda was nominated for an Academy Award for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Some may have seen his work in the 2010 “Tron: Legacy.”
Miranda has created for us images of astonishing beauty. There is one nighttime scene where a whale broaches through a sea of tropical phosphorescence that is beyond description. And this is not the only magical moment, not by a long shot.
What a wonderful world it is where people of such talent have a way to share it with those of us who simply provide an audience.
This PG-rated film runs two delightful hours and six minutes. Producer Ang Lee worked with a budget of $120 million well spent dollars. Thus far the film has garnered only $108 million. I hope Ang Lee and Claudio Miranda will not be discouraged.
“Life of Pi” is a wonderful, thoughtful three and a half saw blade film. This is one with enough splendors for the young and enough deeper meaning for the not so young. I think you will like it as much as I did.
Killing Them Softly
No heroes; no one to cheer
This is a movie with something for nobody. We are given some excellent acting by famous people to no good purpose. Brad Pitt stars in and produced this gritty crime drama.
Pitt plays a mob-connected hit man, as does James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) and Ray Liotta another mobster. All three turn in their best games, as we should expect from such fine actors. But the script by director Andrew Dominik leaves us with nobody to cheer for.
Writer/director Dominik teamed up with Brad Pitt in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” We might expect a film with such a long name to fail to catch fire with the viewers and so it was. “The Assassination ...” was a critical success with kudos to many of the actors, but lost loads of loot for the backers. “Killing Them Softly” may squeeze out a profit. Producer Brad Pitt allowed a budget of only $15 million and it has already brought in $25.5 million. Huzzah for Hollywood as a money machine.
But it is just too bad for those of us who went to see this dark, nihilistic, unsatisfying peek into the underbelly of the lowest sort of criminal life. The hero of the piece is Brad Pitt, a killer for hire with no redeeming virtues. He kills people for money and we have no look at the rest of his life to make us have any sympathy for him whatever. We don’t see him helping old ladies across the street or any such acts to humanize him.
He does have the virtue of being relatively efficient, unlike the character played by Gandolfini. His character is also a murderer, but an inept one at the end of his career.
Ray Liotta plays a gangster so vile and unpleasant that he robs his own illegal card game.
These are men who are hard to empathize with. If they are successful, their success is at the expense of other people, if they fail we care so little about them that we are unmoved by their plight.
There is a clever side light on the entire outlook of the film. It is set just four years ago during the last months of the Bush administration. Frequent TV clips show news footage of the time with then President Bush and now President Obama outlining the desperate economy. This economic situation also impacts the economy of the underworld. Even the price of a hit has gone down. Crooks have their own financial problems. This hook isn’t enough to make a successful movie. All of these jerks can go broke and die, we just don’t care.
This one and a half saw blade film is rated R. The R is not for violence (which is gross, but within current norms) or naked people, but for relentless, consistent language of the worst kind. We would expect this kind of talk from junkies, crooks and killers, but it seems that every other word is something not repeatable in common conversation.
I think the idea of the film was to emulate such films as the entertaining and clever “Snatch,” another Brad Pitt vehicle. If so, they missed the mark by a country mile.