While it seems like many Hollywood films these days are only about glitzy special effects, Life of Pi proves such visual feasts can still have meaningful stories behind them. Sure, the source material is heavily a fantasy, the emotions of the characters feel real, and the adventure and magic captured simply reminds people of the greatness of cinema. Life of Pi contains all of the elements of an outstanding film: fine direction, an enthralling story, and superb acting. The spectacular on-screen sights are certainly a huge part of the appeal, but at least it excels in all the fundamentals of filmmaking to support the extravagance.
Life Of Pi is a fictional story about life yet features a very unlikely scenario—learning to live as one with a Bengal tiger out at sea. This strange situation somehow translates to a harrowing tale of survival and finding out where one’s faith truly lies. The film starts in Canada, where an author (Rafe Spall) conducts research for one of his projects through an interview with a middle-aged man named Pi (Slumdog Millionaire’s Irrfan Khan). Pi begins to recount to the author some fascinating anecdotes, from how he got his unique name to how he explored three different religions at once. It leads to his most trying ordeal: losing his family in a shipwreck and being stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a few zoo animals. A few animals eventually becomes one animal in the form of a feared tiger named Richard Parker. In a long flashback that encompasses the film’s primary timeline, Pi is overcome with emotion as he talks about how his younger self (newcomer Suraj Sharma) managed to survive for several long months, while still trying to keep the creature alive as well.
In a way, the film may be reaching for something more than it really is with its spiritual storyline. Pi may have found his true religion as a cast away and while that supposedly is the film’s resolution, it takes a back seat to what the movie is on the surface: just learning to live in the most dire of situations. But as all media revolving around the topics of God, gods, and lack thereof go, the viewer’s beliefs are put to the test, and it can only be up to them to decide if survival depends on the strategies and knowledge of man or if a higher power is at work. The experiential nature is a bit reminiscent of 2011′s The Tree of Life, in both what it speaks about and in its breathtaking cinematography. The main differences is that Life of Pi has a much more understandable script to follow.
Life of Pi is not just a substantial and well-done motion picture, but an experience to immerse into. It’s a must-see in 3D, even if you normally despise the trend. It’s the only way to see and adore Pi’s temporary world and visions of the ocean, forests, and sky. The shipwreck is possibly the single most astounding moment in the movie—not just in the special effects, but in how well the special effects adds to the drama and chaos. The international cast is a marvel, though no one more than the young Sharma as the younger Pi in his first acting role. He perfectly captures the wonder, the curiosity, and most compellingly, the anguish of his character. Director Ang Lee has never been more of a treasure as he continues to add to the diversity of his top-notch filmography. Likable enough for younger audiences (Though filled with peril and a scene of mildly crude humor) but ambitious enough for adults, Life of Pi embodies the type of film to make anyone believe in poignant storytelling through movies.