Director: Ang Lee
Writer: David McGee
Stars: Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan
Life of Pi begins in present day Canada as a young Writer (Rafe Spall) meets with an Adult Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) to hear his story. We learn the story of his name, his family, his faith, and his eventual journey. Pi has a firm belief in God that he derived from his experience with Hindu, Christianity, and Islam. His faith, but especially his lack of choice in a religion, is annoyance to his secular father. This is brought to a head at the family zoo where now a young Pi (Suraj Sharma) was caught trying to feed a tiger, Richard Parker. Angered at Pi for believing Richard Parker has a soul, his father graphically shows Pi that the tiger is nothing more than a killing machine–bringing a living goat to the spot where Pi was and then releasing Richard Parker to do what tigers do.
After a change in the local government that leads to tough economic times for the zoo, Pi’s father decides to close the zoo, move the family and animals to Canada, and then sell the animals to start fresh in a new country. During the journey across the ocean the ship encounters a horrible storm. Pi is on deck during the storm when the ship starts to take on water and begins to sink. In the confusion of the storm with a panicked crew and loose animals Pi in unable to find his family. He barely makes it to a life boat before it crashes to the sea. He witnesses the ship falter and sink. In the water he sees something swim towards the lifeboat and calls it closer. As the thing swims closer Pi panics as he discovers it is Richard Parker and is unable to prevent him from boarding.
The next morning after Pi wakes the full realization of his situation and loss hits him. On the lifeboat there are limited rations, and injured Zebra, a hungry hyena, a sick tiger, and later a rescued orangutan. This precarious situation cannot hold. Eventually the zebra and orangutan are killed by the hyena, and then the hyena by the tiger. Pi is forced to build a makeshift raft with salvaged debris in order to save himself from Richard Parker who controls the lifeboat. What follows is their journey of salvation.
Ang Lee, the director, must be commended for bringing what many considered an unfilmable book to life. The world he created and his use of 3D is immersive and vivid. Richard Parker as a purely computer generated tiger and a marvel of technology–you never believe he is not real. Due credit most also be given to David McGee for his adaptation; with each of the key moments of Pi life shown in order for the audience to understand where he is coming from.
That being said, the pacing of the film is off. The too long middle section–on the raft–is ended abruptly with a too quick ending. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted the audience to be made aware of the beauty of the scenes they created instead of letting them just be there. In other words, the story took a back seat to the pretty pictures.
And what pretty pictures they are. Never has the water been so calm and mirror like. Never has a sky been so full of stars. There was only one niggling defect–for all the effort made to make Richard Parker look like a real tiger, the underwater life definitely looked computer generated.
As for the acting, it was solid across the board. Suraj Sharma ably carries the bulk of the film, and conveys genuine emotion in his dealings with a computer generated tiger. Irrfan Khan is believable as an adult Suraj, and comes across as an enlightened soul.
Overall Life of Pi is a beautiful film. But one that unfortunately left me unconnected with the main character. I witnessed his story, but I did not feel it.
Grade = B