Ang Lee's epic spiritual adventure movie Life of Pi - based on the Booker Prize winning book by Yann Martel - is set for release on Wednesday in the U.S. (November 21, 2012), on the back of strong early reviews. The movie follows the story of a student who sets sail on a cargo ship hauling zoo animals from India to Canada, however, when the ship sinks, he is forced to get along with a full-grown Bengal tiger. 

Lee - best known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - shot most of the visually stunning movie in his native Taiwan, though it could be lead star Suraj Sharma who takes all the plaudits come awards' season. "I had never acted before," the actor told the New York Daily News, "The first thing I learned was how to act opposite no one. I didn't think I could do it, but Ang gets what he wants. So it was new for me - but it was doable." All the water sequences were shot in a huge movie studio tank, while Sharma was forced to act opposite a digitally created version of the tiger. "I'd watch the tigers being trained to get an idea how it would move on the boat. But then I had to imagine the whole thing. I had to get the idea so I could see the tiger as best as I could." Sharma's story could provide the backbone for a Hollywood movie itself, with the New Delhi native being asked by his brother to accompany him to a movie audition to provide moral support. "The casting director told me I might as well give it a shot, too, so I made an audition tape," Sharma recalled, "I wound up having five call-backs and then went to Bombay to meet Ang. For the first three auditions, I didn't even know what I was auditioning for; I just knew it involved survival manuals." Of course, the movie turned out to be Lee's latest assault on awards' season (he won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain in 2005), with Life of Pi tipped for an Oscar nomination, at least. Currently, the movie is the fifth favorite to win Best Film at the awards' ceremony in February, though Sharma is the 33/1 outsider to win Best Actor.

Tom Shone of The Guardian suggests Ang Lee's latest film could usurp the likes of Argo and Lincoln at the Oscars, writing in his review of the movie, "Hollywood has been waiting for this movie. Get ready for the year of the Tiger." Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter echoed the sentiments, writing, "A gorgeous and accomplished rendering of the massive best-seller."

Watch the trailer for Life of Pi below: