Life of PI – 127min – PG
I read this book and was enthralled with how good the story was. When I heard it was going to be a movie I was relieved it was going to be directed by Ang Lee. I love his cinematic eye and his story telling. (I didn't care for his version of the Hulk but that’s a review for another time.) I made it a point to see this movie because I enjoyed the book. Because of the stunning visuals there are parts of the story that drag but I still give it a green light as it’s an excellent survival story.
Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) and his family own a zoo in India and while transferring all of the animals over to North America the ship sinks. Pi makes it to a life raft and so do some of the animals. He is now alone on a boat with a zebra, orangutan, and a hyena. There is also another survivor, Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. The story explains Pi’s method of survival for not only his existence but his faith as well. The story is recounted to us by Pi as an adult (Irrfan Khan) while he entertains a writer (Rafe Spall) who is looking for a new story to write.
This is a very religious film without focusing on religion. Maybe the better description would be spiritual film. The central topic of the film is faith and having that faith tested. It’s nice to see a movie on this subject and not be a sermon. I am having a hard time recalling another movie like this that does not overpower the entertainment with a thump of the message from the pulpit.
Many films have a hard time balancing between message and entertainment. Some have been made by one organization or another and you their message of recruitment or degradation of thither beliefs is very thinly veiled. Or, these films are so watered down that they lose their way in trying to be palatable to more than just their own demographic.
Ang Lee does a wonderful job of making the movie seem mystical -- in part to give the viewer some of sense of PI struggling to hold onto sanity. It gives the viewer a new set of eyes to see reality. A man completely removed from everything finds comfort in the simplest things, like a small bit of shade. Pi struggles with the environment and his own mental well-being by keeping busy. The tiger is his way of staying focused on tasks instead of hopelessness.
I love how Yann Martel interwove three religions into one character, in this way people are more likely to identify with the main character. It embodies the essence of a person with faith dealing with very troubling times.
Warring Spoilers!!!! No more than 30 people can safely click on this to see them!!!!
The story takes place in three parts. Part one: set the stage. Explain all of the characters and where they come from. Part two: explain the events of what happened from two points of view. Part three: give the viewer ample opportunity to think about what happened and what they would do in similar circumstances. I would have loved to have a conversation about what other people thought of the movie. This seems like one that would spark a lot of conversation because each viewer can take away something completely different.
I like how Pi’s father is a logical, driven man. He sees no use in religion and finds it a waste of time, but he tries to get his son to believe in something instead of believing in everything. Faith can be a defense mechanism in times of great peril. A person with faith can weather hardship. I think it’s important to note that PI was a very intelligent person who had faith as opposed to a person who only has faith and nothing else. It was Pi’s intelligence and faith that allowed him to survive.
The duality of the stories that Pi told is the main focus for me. The struggle with the tiger is reminiscent of the struggle within us. We have to keep our inner beast under control. I can see the primal urge to panic is an ever constant struggle in that environment.
Obviously Pi has never seen a tiger mark his territory before, Ick. I saw that coming. At least his mouth was closed.
WWPD what would PI do? Or more to the point what would you do in his shoes…err boat?