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Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

Gangster Squad is 2013’s first big disappointment

Okay, so I am not saying I certainly did, but I may have popped an artery in my brains due to the awesomeness explosion that was the official trailer of the Gangster Squad, when it first hit the net. I’m not saying that I did, but I may have run around in circles with my hands waving wildly in the air on finding out that the star cast of the film included Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, three of the finest young character actors in Hollywood today – Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and Giovanni Ribisi – and the woman of my dreams, Emma Stone.

And I’m not saying that I did, but I may have lost the will to live when I found out that Gangster Squad’s release date was pushed from September 2012 to January 2013. And I’m not definitely not saying this because it may reflect on how awfully exciting my real life is, but one of the biggest reasons I may not have wanted the world to not end was because “HOW COULD IT END BEFORE GANGSTER SQUAD RELEASES?”

But here’s what I’m definitely saying today: The last time I was so disappointed with a movie was when I walked into a theatre to watch Don 2 and ended up watching Farhan Akhtar’s midlife crisis in what could only be called Shah Rukh Khan’s Bodyguard. Okay, so maybe Gangster Squad is not *that* awfully bad, but the problem with the movie is that… it’s not awfully good either.

At the outset, Gangster Squad has *so* many things going for it: It’s got THAT cast, with Sean Penn relishing the role of mob king Mickey Cohen possibly as much as Christoph Waltz relished Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds) or the… err… mountain that played Mordor relished Sauron (Lord of the Rings). It’s got Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone paired together for the second time after Crazy, Stupid, Love showcased their out-of-the-world chemistry that made even the non-believers go giddy with incurable bouts of lurrrveee.

It’s got epic music, outstanding art direction, styling, look and atmosphere, and dialogues so quotable, they could put a Salman Khan-starrer to shame. At its helm, it’s got director Ruben Fleischer, whose Zombieland was by far the coolest take on the zombie-pocalypse by an American (because the Brits did Shaun of the Dead). And it’s NOIR! About GANGSTERS! Set in the ‘40s! In Los Angeles! If that doesn’t spell “OMGTHISISTHEBESTFILMEVER”, what does?

The answer to the above question may arrive on February 14th in the form of A Good Day To Die Hard (yippee-ki-yay!), because Gangster Squad spells something between “OMGISTHISREALLYHAPPENING” and “OMGHOWCOULDTHEYDOTHIS”. Because Gangster Squad has so many things going for it, and yet, it somehow botches it all up and ends up looking like a parody of a gangster movie, rather than an actual gangster movie.

For one, it’s funny. I’m not talking of Goodfellas funny or Gangs of Wasseypur funny, I’m talking about Adam Sandler funny (yeah, ouch). For example, in a movie about a squad of six daredevil cops who’re entrusted with the responsibility of destroying the operations of California’s most dreaded gangsters, there is an extended gag about these guys botching their first operation by being caught by other cops and being jailed for it. Had it been done convincingly enough, it may well have been a classic, but Fleischer takes the slapstick route he undertook fairly well in his 30 Minutes or Less, but imagine such sequences in an LA Confidential or Boardwalk Empire or any noir movie or TV show worth its salt, and you’d understand why they stuck out like sore thumbs.

Another reason is that the film is as predictable as a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy, and just as exasperating at times. *Spoilers ahead:* So when a cop doesn’t want to join the squad, you know a close one would die for him to agree – but the movie introduces the close one about two minutes before this turn of events, and only for that purpose. When a henchman screws up, you *know* that the boss is going to kill him – but the sheer number of times the henchmen screw up and face their imminent deaths makes you wonder if Cohen probably failed as a gangster because he employed the biggest fools of Los Angeles in his gang. And when everyone in the team leaves for a mission except the one person, you *know* that one person is going to die – but the movie is so obvious in its manipulation that this person is the only one who is shown with a family.

But probably the biggest blame in this sabotage of what could have been a classic, lies with the editing: the movie feels like it should have been a two-and-a-half-hour crime saga but is wrapped up in less than two hours. While that’s a great thing now considering even those two hours feel like two long never-ending Mumbai summer months, you get the feeling – you hope – that the movie has been mercilessly cut and there exists a Director’s Cut somewhere, within which lies a movie that is just as awesome as the trailer suggested.

Because if there isn’t, then Ruben Fleischer should really never try anything other than a comedy again because, honestly, even the most serious scenes in the film are funny – it’s laughable how badly they are acted, how convenient they end up being, and how contrived and obviously manipulative the emotions are (wait for the scene with the kid and the bicycle and let me know how hard you laughed). I, for one, was actually *rooting* for someone central to the plot to die in the film so I’d feel more connected to it, but even when a couple did, I was just happy that the climax was finally around the corner.

There is a fine line between being pulp and being corny. Gangster Squad pretends to be the latter but ends up being the former, and it’s only the masterful acting by Sean Penn and the heart put into it by Josh Brolin that just about save the day. If you must, watch Gangster Squad without any expectations, and while you may still be disappointed, at least you will not go on a binge of junk food and aerated drinks, without a care for calories, having lost all faith in Hollywood and the world at large (okay, I’m not saying I did that, but I may have…).

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on January 11, 2013
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/film-review-gangster-squad-is-2013s-first-big-fat-disappointment-584405.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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Review: Les Miserables (2013)

Les Miserables is cinema as it was meant to be

How do you adapt to screen an epic
In a way that’s not been done before
An epic so well known, an epic so often seen
In a way that leaves us wanting more

Well, it can be done, and marvellously so
Shows Tom Hooper, in his work of art
So a magnum opus musical like Les Miserables deserves
Not a review, but some poetry from the heart

Set in that time in 19th century France
When the rich just got richer
And the poor, condemned, weren’t given a chance
This has gone on too long, this needs to change
One ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) took the stance

He forged a new identity, rose to the top
Found redemption by being honest and kind
But he was hunted by Javert (Russell Crowe), a cop
Whom duty, law and an oath had made blind

Many a people, and many a stories, were born, and died
In this 17-year-long journey that Valjean undertook
There was political turmoil and a tragic student revolution
As the very foundation of France shook

Hooper captures the suffering and pain
So heart-breakingly well on screen
But there’s hope, love and morality too
And rousing performances, seldom seen

Hugh Jackman is a revelation; an unbelievable talent!
Russell Crowe is so remarkable, he makes his villain seem gallant
Anne Hathaway, in a short role, makes a huge impact
And the supporting cast leaves you sweating; phew, can they act!

The visuals are glorious and stunning
The soul-stirring music will make you feel alive
The sets are grand and majestic
The filmmaking shows tremendous grit and drive

Take our word and flock the theaters
Les Miserables is one to see
This is moviemaking at its finest
This is cinema the way it was meant to be

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on January 20, 2013
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-les-miserables-is-epic-poetry-from-the-heart-594910.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Review: The Impossible (2013)

The Impossible is 2013’s first best film

A typical Hollywood disaster film is defined by its multiple interconnected storylines where half the fun lies in guessing who’d die first, extravagant special effects that cost more than the souls of the studio heads producing it, a huge ensemble cast of a bunch of B+ actors who’d *actually* otherwise be brought together only if there’d be a real-life apocalypse, and the Godforsaken choice between Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich as director, which makes ALL the difference in the world (no it doesn’t). Thankfully, The Impossible is not your typical Hollywood disaster film. In fact, it’s not a Hollywood film to begin with.

The Impossible, that stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in the lead roles, is an English-language Spanish production about a Spanish family, The Belons, who faced the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami head on, and lived to tell their heart-wrenching tale. This is not a movie that wastes its time in setting up the impending doom, or savours the disaster scenes by amping up the destruction for the pleasure of the viewers, or even boasts of the blockbuster tag that demands limited emotional participation in exchange of instant gratification. This is a simple but powerful film about human tenacity, about surviving against all odds in the face of death, about salvaging and hanging out to the last bit of hope when life has little of it to offer.

The Belon family – Maria and Enrique Alvarez, and their three sons, Lucas, Tomas and Simon, were spending their Christmas vacation in a tropical paradise resort in Thailand on December 26, 2012, just minutes off the Thai coast, when the deadliest Tsunami in human history ravaged the shores of global cities across South East Asia. The Belon family, injured and separated from each other on that day, did not give up on each other, and persevered the chaos and turmoil in post-tsunami Thailand to find each other amidst a sea of wounded, dying or dead tourists and locals, in a story that is traumatic as it is beautiful.

After powerfully setting up the haunting moment when the Tsunami first struck, The Impossible follows the independent journeys of the separated family – Maria (Watts) and the eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland) who end up in one of the many Thai hospitals teeming with the injured, and Henry (Enrique Alvarez played by McGregor) and the two younger sons, Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), who are looking through every hotel, every hospital and every morgue in the hope that the rest of their family is alive.

While the disaster and its aftermaths – the human suffering at the hands of an unforeseen and unexpected natural force – are definitely an important part of the movie, the core of the movie lies in what is probably the core of the human fabric: the love for family. The movie does not care to deal with subtexts or larger meanings, or try and analyse why the disaster happened, why were these particular people chosen or who was responsible for it all; instead, it taps into the most basic of human emotions and shows, through a screenplay that is at times heart-breaking, and at times fills you with elation, that the tragedy of losing everything material can always be overcome, if your loved ones are still by your side, holding your hands.

The Impossible is sometimes a difficult movie to watch, purely for the range of emotions it stirs within you, but it is also an important watch, to drive home the point that we only know too well – that love is all you need. It’s directed straight from the heart by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage); it’s got some of the best, most natural and most heart-rendering performances seen on screen in a while, by Watts (who deserves an Oscar like nobody else), McGregor and especially Hollander, who makes the viewer feel pain, joy, suffering and hope like only the real Lucas could have felt; and ultimately and most important , it’s about courage and the triumph of the human spirit.

If these are not enough reasons to watch what is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year, watch The Impossible because it will leave you with a smile on your face, as you go back home and hug your entire family, and thank the powers that be for every moment you’ve got to spend with them, and for every moment hereafter.

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on November 1, 2012
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-the-impossible-is-really-about-family-not-about-a-tsunami-585567.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Review: Midnight’s Children (2013)

Midnight’s Children is a stunning mess

How do you go about adapting an epic novel whose scope is as humongous as its legacy… if you are not Peter Jackson? The evident answer is: you don’t. Fanboys (ahem… guilty as charged) may go on a limb and even say: you *can’t*, but every now and then, a Cloud Atlas turns up and proves us wrong. Midnight’s Children, unfortunately, is no Cloud Atlas, and is certainly no Lord of the Rings (and not because it has no Hobbits — in fact, it has Darsheel Safary).

It’s not so much that there’s anything Deepa Mehta, the director, or Salman Rushdie, who has adapted his own book into a screenplay, have done anything wrong, or even anything less, than what they could have done — it’s perhaps that adapting a 600-page novel that spans 60 years and intertwines genres as diverse as magic realism and historical fiction, into a two and a half hour movie, was never going to be easy.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, the story of Midnight’s Children is the story of Saleem (played by Darsheel and Satya Bhabha), who was born at the precise stroke of midnight, and exchanged at birth with the child of an affluent Indian Muslim family, the Sinais. Saleem shares a gift that over a thousand children born between the hours of 12 and 1 — the Midnight’s Children — that historic night, were bestowed with: he has super powers. In a Bryan Singer movie, this could have led to a X-Men type battle between these children and the villainous humans who want to destroy them, but this film sticks largely to Saleem’s story, as he battles his destiny through two wars and the emergency.

To its credit, Midnight’s Children holds your interest for most of its running time, because, well, it *is* a phenomenal story and no matter what you do, you cannot screw it up… beyond a point. But the problem lies with the fact that there’s just too much happening on screen, and there’s too little coherence between it all. There are more characters than the number of years the movie covers, and due to the limitation of its running time, the plots these characters inhabit are half-baked and remain unresolved, not exactly unlike the protagonist of the film, Saleem Sinai.

The screenplay quickly moves from one plot point to another, but not seamlessly, and as a result, before you can properly start connecting with a character, or even, err, lusting for the actor that portrays it (Anita Majumdar as Emerald, woot!), another has been introduced. And before you can start wondering where – and why – did Emerald go, another story begins and ends prematurely, so as much as you’d want to see more of the gorgeous Shriya Saran or the powerhouse Siddharth (playing Parvati and Shiva, two other Midnight’s Children), all you get is a *lot* of Darsheel and Satya.

While both are decent actors and do a pretty good job, they’ve been pitted against some of the finest and most experienced talent our country has to offer, which really isn’t fair to them, and so, the supporting characters register far more than them. The scene stealers are Ronit Roy, who reprises a role similar to the one he did in Udaan, and is just as outstanding again, and Siddharth, who sets the screen ablaze in every scene. Shahana Goswami and Rahul Bose also deliver top-notch performances and everyone else, from the legendary Kulbushan Kharbanda to Saran are a joy to watch.

Mehta does a solid job of direction, given the muddled script, and deserves credit for ‘showing’ so much of the history of India — including a daring section on Indira Gandhi — by showing so little. The cinematography (Giles Nuttgens) makes the film visually powerful and while the background score (Nitin Sawhney) compliments it for the most part, it really could have been less clichéd. Really, when will India stop being represented by flutes in Hollywood? And after such great primary casting, the make up on the fringe characters is annoying, since they look like those Indian stereotypes that Americans see us as.

Largely though, Midnight’s Children is a stunning mess, but it is, ultimately, a mess. For the brave attempt and the fabulous ensemble cast, the movie warrants a singular visit to the theaters, but unlike the novel or the momentous date it is built on, the movie won’t be making it to the history books.

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on February 4, 2013
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-midnights-children-is-a-stunning-mess-611692.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Review: Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Zero Dark Thirty is good but not great

At the upcoming 2013 Academy Awards, it’s been nominated for five Oscars, including Best Motion Picture of the Year. So far, it’s won the Best Picture Award at AFI Awards, Austin Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and some 40 more. Yes, it just *might* be a little fact that critics love the film and that they *may* want to marry the film and have little baby sequels of the film.

So the question isn’t whether Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn “The Hurt Locker” Bigelow’s film about the decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his subsequent assassination, is any good. The questions are exactly how good is it, precisely how excited should you be to watch it, does it really deserve all the awards on this planet over Argo and most importantly, whether or not the Osama in this film looks better than Pradyuman Singh from Tere Bin Laden.

Cutting to the chase (pun totally intended), Zero Dark Thirty is an engrossing, superbly directed, well-acted and finely made drama about the longest manhunt for the most dangerous man in recent history. It’s an intense, grim and disturbing film that seethes and festers in the palpable tension that Bigelow creates on screen through the superlative performances. But – yes, there’s a but – there are a few glaring hiccups in the film that make it far from perfect.

For one, the film is unapologetically one-sided in its portrayal of what exactly happened. We see people being tortured, maimed or killed through the film, and the film focuses on the fact that it is wrong, but never on the story behind it. There’s no remorse shown by anyone in the film – whether on the “right” side or the “wrong” – and there is no justification or reason given as to why one side is right, and the other wrong. Like the protagonist of the film, CIA agent Maya, who takes it upon herself to capture Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty is clinical in its approach as well.

Most of the film is, hence, devoid of any moral ambiguity or real emotion, apart from the tension that runs through the atmospheric first half, and while it’s always refreshing when a cliché is avoided, somehow, the film feels a bit hollow and because of the categorical absence of the other side. Of course, this could all be propaganda, but if that is indeed the case, it is a far cry from the balanced portrayal of war in Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and the film’s emotional maturity.

Then there is the case of the graphic torture scenes, of which much has been made in the American media. Without getting into the political implications of these scenes, cinematically, and as part of the film as a whole, the scenes are long, drawn out and after a point of time, unnecessary. Whatever they add to the dark, harrowing feel of the film is conveyed in the first 10 minutes, after which, they seem like an exercise in futility. Even the last 30 minutes of the film, shot in night vision, that focus purely on the elimination of Bin Laden by the US Navy Seals, could have been done with some chopping on the edit table.

The real film lies somewhere in between the first and last 30 minutes, in Jessica Chastain’s gritty portrayal of Maya, whose resolve to capture Bin Laden against all odds, be it political, professional or emotional, give the film its highest dramatic points. It’s hard to miss the fact that her arc, and the movie’s actual story, mirrors that of the brilliant American TV series, Homeland, and just like Claire Danes carries the series on her shoulders, it is Chastain’s measured and tenacious performance that makes Zero Dark Thirty the riveting watch that it is.

Watch the film for Chastain, Bigelow’s direction, and the remarkable story that it is, but carry along some patience in good measure, since Zero Dark Thirty is more a pensive drama than the thriller it is made out to be.

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on February 17, 2013
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-zero-dark-thirty-is-good-but-not-great-628499.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Review: Lincoln (2013)

Somewhere in the middle of the new, two-and-a-half-hour long Steven Spielberg historical drama, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis’ eponymous title character speaks to a Union soldier about an incident that had occurred during the American civil war. A 16-year-old boy had been sentenced to hang as a punishment for laming his horse to avoid going into battle.

Lincoln asks the soldier if their general would complain if he were to pardon the boy. The soldier remarks that his general feels Lincoln pardons too many already. Lincoln replies, “War is nearly done… What use another corpse? If I were to hang every 16-year-old boy for cruelty to a horse, or for being frightened, there wouldn’t be any 16-year-old boys left.”

There are several such moments when Day-Lewis’ Lincoln narrates off-hand, arbitrary stories, sometimes funny, sometimes absurd, but always with the singular intention to drive home tough points to tougher people in a compassionate, gentle way. Spielberg uses this precise approach with his movie too, and it has the precise outcome – like the many men and women of that time, who were smitten by President Lincoln’s charm and awestruck by his aura, we are sold too.

The movie isn’t a broad biography of USA’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln; it’s about a specific time in his leadership and a momentous time in our modern history, where he successfully fought for the abolishment of slavery through democratic means – the passing of The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States. At the outset, this seems to be too narrow a period to adequately portray the man, Abraham Lincoln, behind the great leader of men, President Lincoln, but Spielberg surprises with the incredible panache with which he pulls off this enormous task.

We already know the climax of the film, but even with that constraint, Spielberg packs in enough layers of drama and emotion, with just the right amount of wit and light humour, that at every point of the masterful screenplay, written by Tony Kushner of Munich fame, we are continually anxious to know what happened next, and how! Of course, like all great dramas, Lincoln has an unhurried, deliberate pace, that at times gets a bit too slow, but by and large, the proceedings are far too compelling to worry about the time. The movie could have definitely ended five minutes before it did, though – showing the assassination was entirely unnecessary and looked forced.

Most of the drama comes from Lincoln’s predicament that Spielberg ably showcases and Day-Lewis spectacularly portrays through the length of the film, of how the president must go about trying to pass the Amendment in Congress before the civil war comes to an end – because once it ends, the bill could never be passed – even as he must try to end the war independently, to bring an end to the suffering. Spielberg gives Lincoln the shades of being a kind and fair leader, but one, who could be tough and do what had to be done, if the situation demanded it.

All this while, his relationship with his emotionally unstable wife (Sally Field), his son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who’s determined to go to war despite his family’s opposition, his peers including the aggressive leader of the Republican Party (a brilliant and terrifically entertaining Tommy Lee Jones) and his rivals, make for an absorbing biography too.

And of course, while there’s hardly any need to say it, it must be said all the same: two-time Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis is a modern god of acting, and it’s hard to imagine if President Lincoln himself could have portrayed his self on screen so expertly. Day-Lewis gets under the skin of the role, just like he always does, and makes Lincoln his own, and from every pause he takes between his lines, to every twitch of his face, he is so utterly convincing, that there’s absolutely no way Lincoln could’ve been any different in real life.

There’s another question that Lincoln asks a soldier somewhere in the middle of the film that stays behind long after the film: “Do you think we choose the times into which we are born? Or do we fit the times we are born into?” Day-Lewis is the kind of actor who chose to be born in today’s times to play the roles he’s chosen to play in the films he’s chosen to play them in, and while there are several reasons Lincoln is an excellent watch at the theaters, Day-Lewis’ performance is worth the price of the ticket alone.

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on Feb 9, 2013
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-daniel-day-lewis-as-lincoln-is-a-modern-god-of-acting-619494.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Review: Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi will make you believe in Ang Lee

“Your uncle told me that you have a story that will make me believe in God?” questions the writer (Rafe Spall) to Piscine Patel (Irrfan Khan), better known as Pi, in a conversation at the beginning of the movie. It’s an incredible premise, setting up enormous expectations for the story to follow, and leaving you roused in anticipation, even more so than all the early reviews, the stunning trailers and the featurettes gushing about its 3D, and the distracting hype that Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s stature carries with it, have doubtlessly had already.

But twenty minutes into the movie, you’ve forgotten everything. You’ve forgotten the Oscar buzz and the 3D argument. You’ve forgotten the jarring accents that bothered you merely five minutes ago. You’ve forgotten the horrendous Peter Sellers-like brown-painted white man with the offensive Indian twang and you’ve forgotten the painfully trite use of sitars and tablas in the background score to give the Hollywood manufactured “feel of India.” As astonishing as it may be, you’ve also forgotten the breath-taking, timeless beauty of Tabu that you longed to stay with, just a little bit longer. (And you’ve somehow forgotten that bitter feeling of envy that comes from AdilHussain working with the most gorgeous of Indian women.)

Because twenty minutes into the movie, Life of Pi emanates within you a strange feeling of calm, as the striking visuals and the powerful storytelling take over. You are then not just a viewer of the film, you are a part of the film’s wondrous, expansive world; a world in which you are Pi (Suraj Sharma), the 16-year-old boy stranded on a life boat in the middle of the ocean after a shipwreck, and a world in which you are also the carnivore, the majestic Tiger, who is stranded in the same boat with Pi, the only relatable part left of the habitat that once surrounded it. Twenty minutes into the movie, you are the movie, as Lee taps into your innermost, most primal emotions and immaculately plays them back on a screen grand and fitting enough to match the scale of Yann Martel’s ambitious novel of the same name.

Masterfully using the big screen as a canvas and painting a series of gorgeous images on it, but ones that are deeply rooted in human emotions,Lee infuses the ‘life’ in Life of Pi, a novel largely about the 227 days that its protagonist, Pi, spends in the middle of the ocean with a tiger for company, and one that has largely been considered unfilmable. The movie is reminiscent of the Robert Zemeckis directed and Oscar-nominated Tom Hanks’ movie, Cast Away, in its basic premise of ‘Man vs Wild’, but is infinitely more gripping, and superior in driving home the point that everything you thought you know about life and its meaning change when you have to survive at sea (and of course, when you are in the company of a carnivore).

The tiger in the movie is, at times, a digitally (but astoundingly) created tiger and at times,the real animal itself, and more than just young Suraj Sharma’s remarkable portrayal of Pi, the triumph of the movie lies in the way Lee has used the tiger, both as a creature we fear, respect and perhaps one we are yet to understand, as well as a metaphor for survival, endurance and persistent grit, at a time when it could seem that your faith in God could only have been misplaced.

The cinematography, direction, special effects and art of the movie scream ‘Oscar’ and superlative performances from the entire cast only help the movie’s cause. And for once, the 3D actually helps. It’s also gratifying to finally see Irrfan Khan in another Hollywood role after The Namesake (although it is again an extended cameo) that does justice to his talent – the final scene of the movie will make you understand why. But yes, though I personally loved the movie’s ending, if you are looking to be spiritually moved or find answers to the questions of life, reading the book may serve you better than watching the movie.

Because this is not a movie that will make you believe in God. It is a movie that will make you believe in Ang Lee.

Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on November 23, 2012
Link: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/movie-review-ang-lee-infuses-life-into-life-of-pi-532744.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.