Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi (2012)
Believe the Unbelievable
Directed by  : Ang Lee
Starring        : Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall
Genre        : Adventure, Drama
Runtime     : 127 minutes
WI's rating : 8.6

Pi PatelAll of life is an act of letting go but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye. 
Life of Pi unfolds like an ancient mariner's tall tale, related by a middle-aged Pi Patel (Irfan Khan) to a nameless Canadian writer played by Rafe Spall. As Pi digs back into his past, Lee cuts to Pondicherry, India, where a 12-year-old Pi (here played by Ayush Tandon) grows up on the grounds of a zoo owned by his eccentric parents - hence the menagerie of creatures introduced in the opening credits.

Although raised a Hindu, Pi becomes something of a connoisseur of religions, as a series of experiences leave him swing from Hindu to Christianity, and then to Islam. Life Of Pi lays its stall out early as a movie with big themes about existence and religion, about where humans fit in the grand scheme of the animal kingdom and the cosmos. But Ang Lee invest this potentially beard-stroking subject matter with humour and (one conversation with a Christian priest aside) a lightness of touch; Pi’s youthful fascination with religions of all kinds is gently undercut by his father’s cold rationalism("You'll only have to collect three more religions," he says, "And you'll always be on holiday"). 

It's when Pi’s family head for Canada that Ang Lee slowly and subtly allows his gloves to come off. With their zoo bust, Pi's mother and father hope to start a new life overseas, and with their animals in tow (which they hope to sell when they reach the Americas), they set off on a freighter full of Japanese sailors and a grumpy cook.
Pi Patel : Don't lose hope

When a storm whips up and sinks the boat, Pi (now 16 and played by Suraj Sharma) is left on a life raft with another unexpected survivor: a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, a handful of supplies and nothing but an expanse of ocean in every direction. This turn of events is shot in a matter-of-fact way, without incidental music or protracted scenes of anguish, and at first, it’s easy to be a little nonplussed by how emotionless this potentially horrific occurrence is; it’s only later that it becomes obvious what Lee is up to. Throughout, Lee dances a thin and dangerous line between fantasy and realism, between colourful whimsy and the stark danger of being stranded at sea.
Pi Patel: [facing a storm on the lifeboat] Richard Parker, come out you have to see this! It's beautiful! 

Most of the interaction is between him and Richard Parker, a Bengali tiger that has as much will to live as Pi does. Lee has filmed some unbelievable scenes, and I am still in awe about the way he did accomplish this. It's either the wonders of great editing, some quite sensational computer graphic imagery, or just plain terrific direction by Lee.

Pi and Parker's main goal is to survive, and they start by outsmarting each other and proving their worth, claiming territoriality, and giving us some thrilling and at times, very funny and scary exchanges. Eventually, as the story reaches its last sections, we see another type of link develop, and a film that is certainly qualifying as a wonderful movie from its beginning has now soared into greatness. The audience must be ready to gasp, and choke as powerful expressions, sometimes wordless acting force us into looking into our own emotions. Tears will inevitable roll out as you witness beauty rarely shown in movies

Suraj Sharma plays the most significant role in the movie with all his efforts and he wins it in the end. The guy is awesome handling some tough intense scenes in the movie. Irfan Khan playing the narrator as well as the older Pi shows his maturity in the business, patient with the small parts he never misses his character and his narration and dialog's delivery is to die for. Adil Hussain as Pi's father is superb with his character and does contribute a hell lot. Other actors contribute evenly including the computer generated zoo animals. 

The CG effects are even better. Put simply, Life Of Pi is a movie which could not have existed a decade or two ago. Even though part of our brain might scan for signs of artifice and occasionally find it, the quality of the animation and texturing on Richard and the film's other animals is such that even the most jaded eye will give up trying to spot the joins after a few minutes or so. This is partly thanks to sheer technical sophistication, but also thanks to the direction and cinematography, which sets us up for extraordinary sights long before they occur.

Spoiler alert

The Animal StoryIn this version of Pi’s tale, the cargo ship sinks and, during the ensuing chaos, he is joined on the lifeboat by a ragtag group of zoo animals that also managed to escape: an orangutan, a spotted hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, and a Bengal Tiger (named Richard Parker). After some time, Pi watches helplessly as the hyena kills the zebra and then the orangutan before it is, subsequently, dispatched by Richard Parker. Pi then sets about conditioning the tiger through rewarding behavior (food and fresh water), so that the two can co-exist in the boat. Though Pi succeeds, the pair remain on the verge of starvation – until, after several months at sea, they wash ashore an uncharted island packed with fresh vegetation and a bountiful meerkat population. Pi and Richard Parker stuff themselves, but soon discover that the island is home to a carnivorous algae that, when the tide arrives, turns the ground to an acidic trap. Pi realizes that eventually the island will consume them – so he stocks the lifeboat with greens and meerkats and the pair sets sail again. When the lifeboat makes landfall along the Mexican coast, Pi and Richard Parker are once again malnourished – as Pi collapses on the beach, he watches the Bengal Tiger disappear into the jungle without even glancing back.Pi is brought to a hospital – where he tells the animal story to the Japanese officials. However, when the agents do not believe his tale, the young survivor tells a different version of his journey.

The Human Story

In this version of Pi’s tale the cargo ship still sinks, but instead of the ragtag group of animals in the lifeboat, Pi claims that he was joined by his mother (Gita), the ship’s despicable cook, and an injured Japanese sailor. After some time, fearing for the limited supplies in the boat, the cook kills the weakened Japanese sailor, and later, Gita. Scarred from watching his mother die in front of his eyes, Pi kills the cook in a moment of self-preservation (and revenge).
Pi does not mention his other adventures at sea (the carnivorous island, etc) but it’d be easy to strip away some of the fantastical elements in favor of more grounded (albeit allegorical) situations. Maybe he found an island but realized that living is more than just eating and existing – deciding to take his chances at sea instead of wasting away in apathy on a beach eating meerkats all alone. Of course, that is purely speculation – since, again, Pi does not elaborate on the more grounded human story beyond the revelation that he was alone on the lifeboat.


The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006)
Are You Watching Closely?
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring      : Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine
Genre        : Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Runtime     : 130 minutes
WI's rating : 8.7

Cutter: Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."

 Told in a narrative that jumps between various points along its time line, playing out like a magic act itself, the story is that of two magicians on the rise in their careers. Two magicians are perfectly-cast with Hugh Jackman capturing the showy, slick, ambition-driven nature of his character Angier in contrast to Bale's technique-driven purist who may be well on his way to perfecting the craft, but lacks the 'Abracadabra' entertainment value. Robert and Alfred, who start a friendship that eventually turns into rivalry after Rupert's wife is killed in a magic trick that went wrong.
Cutter: You settled on a name yet?
Robert Angier: Yes I have. The Great Danton.
Cutter: Bit old-fashioned isn't it?
Robert Angier: No. It's sophisticated.
 Angier starts performing with the sobriquet "The Great Danton" with Cutter (Michael Caine) as his illusion engineer, while Borden with the stage name "The Professor" with Fellon as his engineer. Angier is an adept showman, but lacks the technical prowess. On the contrary, Borden is highly skillful, but lacks the taste for grandeur and showmanship. Each regards the other as his only obstacle (owing to their bitterly intertwined past) and this starts a series of events in which each tries to stymie the other by any means possible (sabotage, abduction, incrimination and even killings).

Awed by the apparent genuineness of Borden's version of "The Transported Man" and inveigled by Borden's deliberate misdirection, Angier travels miles and spends a fortune to approach an ingenious scientist named Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) in order to cajole him into building a machine for him (a machine that could help him outperform Borden). Nikola Tesla is an apostle of Alternating Current (and rightly thinks it to be superior to Direct Current), and is under immense pressure imparted by Thomas Edison (ruthless advocator of Direct Current) and his men, who are after Tesla. As Edison's men close in on him, Tesla runs out of time and hence funds for his research and is forced to oblige Angier, who is his very last client. Tesla flees the scene shortly after fulfilling his promise to Angier (not without leaving him a strong note of caution against the use of his invention), whose ever increasing skepticism in Tesla is placated by the efficacy of his masterful invention. Using Tesla's machine, Angier introduces his own version of "The Transported Man", which becomes an instant success, but in lieu of a terrible self-sacrifice (that Angier has to make every night while performing). As the story culminates, the viewer is startled with many revelations including the mental and physical torments that Borden's complex character undergoes owing to his total devotion towards his art.
Nikola Tesla: Exact science, Mr Angier, is not an exact science.

The supporting cast, meanwhile, adds its own set of stellar performances to the mix. Michael Caine's Cutter -- pitted between the two men as a mentor and, later, an accomplice -- conveys perfect notes of complicity and repulsion when his own trust is taken and betrayed; as Olivia Wenscombe, Scarlett Johansson transforms a would-be "trophy woman" into an active participant in the magicians' one-upmanship; and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla -- a scientist consumed by his own desire to discover hidden or yet-unearthed secrets -- embodies a potential future for the obsessed Angier. 

As the film's dialogue suggests, the true purpose of magic is not to trick or deceive, but rather to convince an audience that "something" can appear to be "something else" entirely. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the man responsible for the misdirection-filled Memento, this idea is elevated to new artistic heights -- even as it temporarily appears to be just another tool in a master storyteller's arsenal. Ultimately, this movie is all Nolan's show. Returning to more intimate filmmaking after helming Batman Begins, the director manages to make this complex story as easily understandable and effective as he made the outwardly straightforward comic book adaptation dense and sophisticated. But that may be the filmmaker's greatest trick: to make the simple ones look complicated and the complicated ones look simple. Because any truly great performance is almost as much showmanship as it is actual talent, and Nolan possesses both in spades -- which means that as brilliant as it is, The Prestige is not "just" a convincing trick perpetrated on a willing audience. Rather, it's a sign that more, bigger and better ones are sure to come.

Spoiler Alert
Alfred Borden has a twin, and "lives the act" even at home with his wife and child. He and the twin switch places often, with one portraying the other's assistant Fallon. This also explains why he seems to be two different people around his wife, who kills herself. The machine that Tesla builds for Angier turns out to be a cloning machine, which transports the clone in the process. So, each night Angier uses the machine onstage, he is actually cloning himself, with the copy falling through the trap door into a water tank and drowning. Angier uses this to frame Borden for his murder. Angier takes on the name Lord Caldlow and is granted custody of Borden's daughter after the trial, so apparently, he has suceeded in taking everything from Borden as he set out to do. At this point, Angier is still unaware that Borden has a twin. One of the Borden/Fallon twins is hanged for the crime, while the other returns to shoot Angier, setting fire to his dead body and the duplicating machine. As Angier is dying he states "You don't see where you are, do you?", and, as the fire burns, Borden/Fallon looks around and realizes that he is in the underground holding area for the water tanks with the dead Angier clones inside of them. We are then shown Borden/Fallon reuniting with his daughter who is with Cutter, (who knew that Borden was a twin the entire time). The movie ends with a quick shot of one of the dead clones in a water tank.


Infernal Affairs a.k.a Mo-Gaan-Do (2002)

Infernal Affairs (2002)
Loyalty. Honor. Betrayal. 
Directed by: Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak
Starring      : Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong
Genre        : Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Runtime     : 101 minutes
WI's rating : 8.4

Supt. Wong: I remember a story. Two fools are waiting for their kidney transplant but only one kidney is available. Thus they play a game. They put a card on each others pockets. Whoever guesses the card in his own pocket wins.
Hon Sam: You know I can see your card.
Supt. Wong: I think so too
Hon Sam: I will beat you.
Supt. Wong: Let's see. We should be more careful.
Hon Sam: I will.
Supt. Wong: By the way, whoever loses the game dies.
Hon Sam: Let's see when you're going to die.
Supt. Wong: [extends his hand for a handshake]
Hon Sam: Ever seen someone shake a corpse's hand?
Infernal Affairs is about a cop who is actually a gangster, and a gangster who is actually a cop. The film opens with a big boss named Sam (Eric Tsang) sending off his youngest lieutenants to infiltrate the Hong Kong Police Academy. This is part of a long-term strategy aimed at keeping tabs on what the long arm of the law is up to. Ten years later, one of Sam's would-be spies, Ming (Andy Lau), is now a sergeant in the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau and he is secretly undermining the efforts by Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong) to bring down Sam's crime empire. However, what Ming doesn't realize is that Wong has infiltrated Sam's organization with a mole of his own-- Yan (Tony Leung), a cop who has spent the past decade working his way up to Sam's number-two man. Events kick into high gear during a tense sequence in which the police try to thwart one of Sam's drug deals. As the deal goes down, Yan secretly transmits the details to Wong while Ming sends coded messages to his boss keeping him apprised of what the police are up to. Though the bust ends with a stalemate, both sides end up realizing that there is a mole in their respective organizations. Thus, the undercover cop and the undercover criminal become caught up in trying to identify each other while keeping their own identities secret.

These two characters come into full play 10 years after the opening scenes, when both of them are brought into play by their original employers, and both sides realize they have a traitor in their ranks. In a kind of symmetry which is unlikely and yet poetically appropriate, each one is assigned to find the mole -- to find himself, that is. There's another level of irony since Lau and Chan actually graduated in the same academy class, and knew each other if only by sight; Chan has no way of knowing Lau is a sleeper for the mob, but Lau knew at the time that Chan was a cop, and possibly knew he disappeared to go undercover. The two meet by chance years later in a stereo store, but don't recognize each other -- a possibility easier for us to accept because they were played by other actors as younger men.

Keung: Remember this, if you see someone doing something but at the same time watching you... then he is a cop.
 Few cities, not even New York or Los Angeles, the capital of film noir, can match Hong Kong for its extreme paradox of urban decay and powerful material lure, and “Infernal Affairs” takes full advantage of the city's look to reflect and comment on the corroding ethics of its characters. What elevates the film above the generic foundations is its existential layer. Both men have grown weary with their personal lives, with living secretive and lonely existences in the gray area between good and evil. (A colleague of mine pointed out that the film's Chinese title, “Mo-Gaan-Do,” refers to the lowest level of hell in Buddhism.) Indeed, Yan is tired of pretending to be an amoral gangster and wants his normal life back, while Ming yearns to become a real cop and shed his forced role as a Triad spy.

Lau Kin Ming: I have no choice before, but now I want to turn over a new leaf.
Chan Wing Yan: Good. Try telling that to the judge; see what he has to say.
Lau Kin Ming: You want me dead?
Chan Wing Yan: Sorry, I'm a cop
Lau Kin Ming: Who knows that?

But this plot, clever and complex, is not the reason to see the movie. What makes it special is the inner turmoil caused by living a lie. If everyone you know and everything you do for 10 years indicates you are one kind of person, and you know you are another, how do you live with that? The movie pays off in a kind of emotional complexity rarely seen in crime movies. I cannot reveal what happens, but will urge you to consider the thoughts of two men who finally confront their own real identities -- in the person of the other character. The crook has been the good cop. The cop has been the good crook. It's as if they have impersonated each other.


Pianist (2002)

Pianist (2002)
Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Starring      : Adrien Brody, Thomas kretschmann
Genre        : Drama, Biography,History
Runtime     : 150 minutes
WI's rating : 8.7

Halina: We could hide the money. Look here. We can hide the money under the flower pots.
Father: No, no, no, no, I'll tell you what we do. We use tried and tested methods. You know what we did in the last war? We made a hole in the table leg
[taps the leg]
Father: and hid the money in there.
Henryk Szpilman: And suppose they take the table away?
Father: What do you mean, take the table away?
Henryk Szpilman: The Germans go into Jewish homes and they just take what they want, furniture, valuable, anything.
Mother: Do they?
Father: Idiot, what would they want with a table, a table like this?
[rips a piece of wood off the table]
Mother: What on earth are you doing!
Halina: No, listen. This is the best place for it. No-one would think of looking under the flower pots.
Henryk Szpilman: No, no, no, listen, listen to me, I've been thinking...
Wladyslaw Szpilman: Oh, really? That's a change.
Henryk Szpilman: You know what we do? We use psychology.
Wladyslaw Szpilman: We use *what*?
Henryk Szpilman: We leave the money and the watch on the table, and we cover it like this, in full view.
Wladyslaw Szpilman: [amazed] Are you stupid?
Henryk Szpilman: The Germans will search high and low, I promise you, they'll never notice!
Wladyslaw Szpilman: That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen, of course they'll notice it. Look.
[takes the violin and a bill, folds it and slips it into the opening of the violin]
Wladyslaw Szpilman: Look here... idiot.
Henryk Szpilman: And you call me stupid?
Mother: No, that is very good, because that is the last place they will ever look.
Henryk Szpilman: This will take hours!
Mother: We're not in a hurry, we'll get it back...
Wladyslaw Szpilman: It won't take hours.
Henryk Szpilman: How will you get them out? Tell me that, tell me how, I'd like to know, how would you get them out. You take each one out individually...
Halina: No-one listens to me, no-one. 

The Pianist follows up and coming piano player Wlad Spielzman from his days as a local hero to a prisoner of war to his time in the ghettos, surviving only by the kindness of strangers. I think many people have touched on this before but what makes this film so amazing and well crafted is because Spielzman is a man that we can all relate to. He is not a hero, he is not a rebel and he is not a kamikaze type that wants and lusts after revenge. He is a simple man that is doing everything in his power to stay alive. He is a desperate man and fears for his life and wants to stay as low as he can. Only from the succor he receives from others does he manage to live and breathe and eat and hide. And this is how I related to him. If put in his position, how would I react? Exactly the way he did. This is a man that had everything taken from him. His livelihood, his family, his freedom and almost his life. There is no time for heroics here. Adrien Brody embodies the spirit of Spielzman and his win at this years Oscars was one of the happiest moments I have had watching the festivities. Ultimately it is his gift of music that perhaps saves his life and the final scene that he has with the German soldier is one of the most emotionally galvanizing scenes I've witnessed. With very little dialogue, it is in the eyes, the face, the mouth and the sounds that chime throughout their tiny space that tell you all you need to know. I think it is this scene that won Brody his Oscar. This is one of the all time great performances.

Does the pianist raise any sympathy from the audience? Not immediately, in my view. The pianist is more than often a drifting character, almost a witness of other people's and his own horrors. He seems to float and drift along the film like a lost feather, with people quickly appearing and disappearing from his life, some helping generously, others taking advantage of his quiet despair, always maintaining an almost blank, dispassionate demeanour. One may even wonder why we should care in the least about this character. But we do care. That is, I believe, the secret to this film's poetry.

This wrenching yet ultimately uplifting fact-based drama won Adrien Brody his Academy Award and finally made him a star (along with his gracious yet heartfelt Oscar speech) -- rightly so, since title character Wladyslaw Szpilman is a challenging role in so many ways! It's not easy to command the screen when your character often has to be passive, deliberately trying not to draw attention to himself to keep from falling into Nazi hands in war-torn Poland, but Brody pulls it off. It helps that Brody is absolutely stellar at acting with his eyes, plus his body language speaks volumes; these fill in the emotional cracks, especially in scenes where Szpilman, alone and in hiding, can't speak or even move around much for fear of giving himself away. While there's no lack of haunting scenes, thanks to the deservedly Oscar-winning work of director Roman Polanski and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, the one that always gets me is the one where Szpilman discovers the apartment serving as his latest `safe house' has a piano. We see Szpilman sit at the piano; we see him in a head-and-shoulders shot, shoulders moving; we hear piano music and gasp as we fear his love and longing for music is about to give him away -- and then we see his hands moving in the air just above the keyboard and realize, with both relief and a pang of regret, that the music is only in Szpilman's head.

The Pianist is not a movie made for entertainment. It's either more or less than that and only the viewer can decide. You have to ask yourself sometimes if the main reason films about the holocaust are so popular is because of shock appeal. If a movie depicts these terrifying events well, does that make it a good movie? The Pianist has many scenes showing the Nazi's brutality that feel almost voyeuristic. Some scenes show Adrien Brody's character looking out the window at these terrible things and you feel as if you're looking out a window, too.

I hope shock appeal isn't the reason this film is liked so much, though. Because this is an amazing story about the will to survive. Music is the character's passion,and throughout his struggles he can only fantasize about playing piano. There is one scene near the end in which he finally gets the opportunity. What follows is a touching moment that transitions from rusty skills warming up to an intense and passionate display of artistic talent. In this moment there is no longer a war going on, no longer the agony of hunger or memories of lost loved ones, just beautiful music. His reputation as a musician and his desire to go on to play again is essentially what keeps him alive.

-Adrien Brody lost 14 kg (31 lb) for the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman by eating a daily diet of two boiled eggs and green tea for breakfast, a little chicken for lunch, and a small piece of fish or chicken with steamed vegetables for dinner over a six week period. Initially his weight was 73 kg (161 lb).
-In order to connect with the feeling of loss required to play the role, Adrien Brody got rid of his apartment, sold his car, and didn't watch television. 
-Adrien Brody became the youngest person to date to win an Academy Award for Best Actor when he won for this film at the age of 29.