One of the many things I love about cinema is the way it endures.
For more than 100 years movies have been a popular source of entertainment for people all over the world despite everything rival technologies have thrown at them.
The film industry has survived the arrival of television, video stores, DVDs, the internet, video games and affordable home theatre equipment. It may not be the only show in town any more but it has shown a remarkable ability to evolve and connect with different generations. Hollywood ticket sales even went up in 2012.
One of the best examples of the magic of cinema that I've ever seen is the Ang Lee directed Life of Pi (PG). Based on the 2001 book of the same name by Yann Martel, Life of Pi has, I'm relieved to report, virtually nothing to do with maths.
Instead it is about a young Indian castaway named Pi and his fantastical story of survival in a lifeboat with only a hungry Bengal tiger for company.
The film starts with a writer, played by Rafe Spall, visiting a middle-aged Pi, played by Irrfan Khan, in Canada. The writer has heard Pi has a story to tell that will make him believe in God. Over the course of two hours Pi tells him the tale and the audience sees it stupendously brought to life.
I went into Life of Pi with helpfully low expectations. Ang Lee, whose impressive track record includes Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, makes movies I typically admire rather than love. The arty imagery of Pi on the boat with the tiger looked more like an ad for an interesting photography exhibition than an entertaining movie and, being a total loser when it comes to maths, I was a worried that large numbers might somehow have been involved.
As it turns out, Life of Pi is probably Lee's most user-friendly film to date. It is stunning to look at while being wonderfully entertaining, and my least favourite subject at school only makes a very brief special guest appearance.
Life of Pi is technically mind-blowing and visually one of the most delicious films ever made. It's 3D peach coloured skies, stunning reflections in water, beautifully rendered creatures and incredible light momentarily left me wondering if someone had spiked my Coke. Seriously, if the tiger doesn't impress you, seek medical attention immediately - you may be dead.
Wonderfully, the human stuff is equally impressive with everyone on screen nailing their part. Special mention must, however, be made of newcomer Suraj Sharma who plays Pi during his high seas adventures. Sharma, who had never acted before, was one of 3000 hopefuls who auditioned for the role and he hits it out of the park.
The way he interacts with the tiger makes it almost impossible to believe that creature was mostly not actually there.
The screenplay by David Magee works a treat too. Finally, it's also a joy to see a film that practically glows with love of family, nature and storytelling.
BOTTOM LINE It's something special. ★★★★★ (out of five)