Stars 5

Treat yourself to the voyage of a lifetime with this breathtaking high seas adventure.

It begins when Rafe Spall’s nameless Writer interviewing Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel, who as an adult is played with knowing charm by Irrfan Khan, and by Suraj Sharma as a teen, who carries the bulk of the film on his young shoulders with desperate, windswept and sunburnt charm.

In flashback we discover Pi was a thoughtful innocent who was forced to become brave and resourceful when sailing from India to Canada. 

A storm cast him adrift in a lifeboat with a hungry Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. He’s the star of the show, a magnificent and menacing bloodthirsty pirate with an all too human desire to survive.

The unlikely companions have to survive storms, sharks, hunger, insanity and each other in order to reach dry land.

Adapted from the best selling book by Yann Martel, this is a film of staggering beauty, great intelligence, and no little humour. Director Ang Lee credits the audience with intelligence, dismissing the need for a huge Hollywood reveal and opts instead to protect the poetic rhythms of the movie.

At times the lifeboat seems to be cruising through the heavens as Pi undergoes a spiritual journey, with wondrous waves of fabulous images crashing across the screen in a tumultuous cascade of colour and energy.

A cinematic experience of the highest order and a towering technical achievement, this fabulous family fantasy is suitable for all but the very young who may find Richard Parker a little too wet and wild.


Cert 15 135mins Stars 3

It’s ice cold in Oslo in this second world war thriller based on an extraordinary real life mission which inspired a nation when all hope was gone.

With wartime moral at its lowest point and his country in despair at Nazi occupation, Norwegian patriot Jan Baalsrud was one of a dozen Scottish-trained saboteurs sent home on a mission to destroy military airfields and installations.

But when his colleagues are caught and his mission plans are intercepted, the injured Baalsrud makes a daring attempt for the heavily guarded border with Sweden, a neutral country.

Among the perils he faces are avalanches, fighter planes and frostbite, plus moments of gruesome horror as he endures some emergency do-it-yourself surgery which Arctic explorer Ranulph Fiennes would be impressed by.

Through his contact with the farmers, fishermen and midwives who help him, we see how Baalsrud’s epic journey raised morale, inspired those he met with his grim determination, and turned him into a folk hero for the fragile resistance movement.

Thomas Gullestad delivers an  impressively physical and convincingly anguished performance as Baalsrud, whose arduous cross country journey across the bleakly beautiful landscape of the Norwegian artic circle is reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s in 2015’s The Revenant.

In order to convey the importance of this marathon journey the filmmakers want us to experience every painful and punishing step of the muscle sapping way.

And as the unrelenting harshness of the Norwegian winter closes in, so do the merciless and brutal Nazis, in the form of Brit actor. Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Best known as Henry VIII from TV’s The Tudors, he plays a vindictive SS Officer for whom it is a matter of professional prestige and personal pride to apprehend the saboteur.

Although initially a bit of a slog the final leg is superbly staged and finger chewingly tense, leaving me with almost as few nails as our frost-bitten hero.

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra (2016) BBFC cert: 15

A personal crisis turns becomes a fight for survival in this exhilarating thriller.

Attacked by a shark while surfing from a secluded Mexican beach, Texan tourist Nancy is stranded on a rock as the deadly killer circles her.

As her hopes ebb and flow, the resourceful med student also has to contend with sunstroke, dehydration, exhaustion and a serious wound.

Hindering her escape attempts are aggressive seagulls, stinging coral, crabs, jelly fish, riptides and razor edged rocks.

A far better surfer than I am, Blake Lively anchors the storming action. She gives a terrific, fiercely physical performance with a deep emotional undercurrent.

Best known as the star of TV’s Gossip Girl, this should put her firmly on the Hollywood map.

The streamlined script keep us hanging on by our fingertips and the tremendous cinematography captures the dangerous energy of the surf. And the shark is awesome.