Life of Pi (2012)

Directed by Ang Lee
Written by David Magee

Religion and faith. Two things that are forever linked and a major part of the day to day life of the world today, tomorrow, and of years past. There is no escaping the presence on religion wherever you go. These two subjects, while very similar, are also two extremely different concepts in my mind. They have both fascinated me for the longest time, and still to this day, for their mystery, power and social connection. People garner quite a bit from religion and faith. Wars are started over it, wrongs are forgiven. I myself and not a religious man. I am a confirmed Catholic, but my set of beliefs are very much their own and unique. Ultimately, I find it far more interesting to hear others talk of their faith and their reasons why.

Life of Pi, making itself a must see for by being on the awards circuit surprised me quite a bit. From the trailer, all I could decipher was a boy stranded on a boat with a tiger, but believe me when I say it was so much more. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, Life of Pi chronicles an amazing tale told by Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi for short. A young Indian boy, who had adopted many faiths (Christianity, Hindi and Islam) finds himself stranded in the middle of the ocean on a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker as his companion. The lone survivors of a terrible shipwreck that left Pi’s Canadian bound family gone, along with most of the animals from the family’s zoo, Pi and Richard Parker must find a way to get along, survive, and endure the many steps of mystery along the way.

The film is unbelievably beautiful, as can be told from the trailer alone. But it is not your conventional film beauty, rather it contains incredible special effects that create a world you are not quite sure exists. But with the direction by the wonderful Ang Lee, and a great performance by a young Suraj Sharma, I couldn’t help but suspend disbelief and have faith that this world was real, as real as Pi was experiencing it, as real as he was retelling it. I cannot comment on how the film compares to the book, having never read the pages myself, but the basic skeleton of the story I imagine remains true to heart, a heart with the wonder of the world clutched tightly, a heart which sees the beauty and the implausibility of this world and embraces it, celebrates it.

There were too many scenes of greatness, from a visual perspective, to describe here. It truly is a remarkable visual accomplishment. I must admit there were a few things that stuck in my mind to detract slightly from the film. Being a film about a boy stranded on the ocean, there were moments where the film slowed to a point where I was beginning to find myself looking around waiting for it to pick back up again. It always did, but there were certainly moments that were not necessarily fully utilized. Another is a bit of circumstantial misfortune. The story is told from the perspective of Pi as an older man, telling it to a young struggling author who might make it his next book. I just really wish the film didn’t have to be formatted as a story being told within the film itself. It is a nitpick, but for whatever reason it did bother me a bit here, even as that type of circumstance usually doesn’t.

I think that detraction comes quite a bit from the fact that I felt nothing was added, storywise, from the encounter between the author and Pi. Irfan Khan, who plays the older Pi, was quite magnificent in his small screen time, getting the most out of his emotions and his great tale. But then came the ending of the film, the bow on the package. This moment, the single question that is raised by Khan’s Pi makes the circumstance an essential part of the film. Before he set out to tell the tale of his incredible journey with Richard Parker, it was indicated that Pi’s story would make the author believe in God’s existence. It is telling that Pi splits his allegiance between three faiths, but the lasting moment from the film is the question Pi leaves the author, and the implications on God’s existence. I wish I could say more, but rather I will simply encourage you to see the film. Then we can talk about it.

***1/2 – Great

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