More than two weeks have passed since I screened ‘Life of Pi’ and I’m still unable to adequately explain how much I love it. This is one of those movies whose message, morals and imagery combine to make a powerful, spiritual and inspirational journey that will never leave me.
Based on the popular novel (which just so happens to be one of Mrs. Hickman’s all-time favorite books), ‘Life of Pi’ is the story of a Indian man’s unique life. I’ve been told that the narrative of the book slightly differs from the movie, but what you see in the film is an older Indian man named Pi (Irrfan Khan) who recounts his life story to a young writer (Rafe Spall). Stuck in India with writer’s block, the author (known only as “The Author”) was directed to meet with Pi and hear his tale, which would allegedly prove the very existence of God. With nothing to lose, the Author meets with Pi, and the majority of the film is the telling of his experiences.
If you’ve seen the trailer or know anything about the book, then you already know what the majority of the film is about. While moving the family’s zoo from India to a more stable nation, the large ship that they’re traveling on sinks, leaving Pi and a handful of animals shipwrecked. The only survivors of the wreckage are teenager Pi, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger (whose name I’ll refrain from revealing because it’s hilarious when you learn about it in the film). Some viewers may complain that the shipwreck doesn’t come quickly enough, but everything that happens before the sinking is the literal calm before the storm. It serves at a breathing period that not only allows you take a deep sustaining breath before the long deep plunge, but it beautifully establishes the characters in a way that allows you to deeply connect with them.
After the storm settles, Pi finds himself stranded with the animals. His survival then depends on staying hydrated and avoiding getting eaten by the hungry tiger. From here out, ‘Life of Pi’ very well could have fallen victim to “castaway fever.” After all, how do you keep a film afloat that’s set almost entirely on a tiny boat adrift in the vast Pacific Ocean? Had it not been for the pre-crash first act, the audience wouldn’t have a strong enough connection with Pi. Because of the character set-up, I found myself rooting for Pi and clinching my armrest as if I was a stranded survivor on the sea with him. On top of that, director Ang Lee has given the film a stylized and gorgeous look. His vision is brilliant, and turns ‘Life of Pi’ into a mesmerizing study of the human experience. The combination of the visual style, the story and the characters makes ‘Life of Pi’ a compelling and breezy 127-minute experience.
As if I wasn’t completely enthralled up to this point, the closing of the intelligent screenplay is its strongest suit. It’s impossible to know exactly where the story will end (other than knowing Pi’s fate; having adult Pi tell the story from the get-go removes any concern about whether or not he’ll survive). Instead, you wonder how he’ll survive and how his story will prove the existence of a higher being. Without coming across as preachy, ‘Life of Pi’ is exceptionally spiritual. Much like ‘The Fountain‘ or ‘The Tree of Life‘, it has the ability to do so without pushing any specific religion or denomination.
Although rated PG, ‘Life of Pi’ is not necessarily a family flick. It might not be the best movie to take your family to over this holiday week. While it doesn’t feature any offensive content, I doubt that it will hold the attention of children. As the tiger begins to find food, the film might even scare children a little.
Even if you don’t make it out to ‘Life of Pi’ this week, I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen the first chance you get. It’s a film that you absolutely must experience.