Life of Pi


By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Within every profession, whether chefs, architects, doctors or florists, each has their own style. The same goes for directors of both film and television, although some stand apart for their cinematic vision and the ability to turn what would be a standard scene into a stunning work of art. Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountan) brings Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, to life on the big screen; weaving a magical tale of nature, survival and redefining the definition of companionship in only a way a master director could.

Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) is a strange young boy growing up in Pondicherry, India. His family owns a zoo, so he has a vast knowledge of animals, is fascinated by stories, and dabbles in a number of religions that interest him. He’s made fun of at school as he grows up but comes into his own in his teens before his father decides it best for the family if they move to Canada as he’ll have work there. In order to do so, they’ll need to get rid of their zoo, to Pi’s disliking.  His father has a place for the animals in Canada, so the family packs up everything they own–animals included–and hitch a ride on a freighter crossing from India to Canada.

One evening, Pi is awoken and goes outside to witness a storm at sea only to discover the ship being taken under by the waves. After a harrowing escape jumping onto a 26-foot lifeboat, Pi finds that he’s not alone. With him are a zebra; a hyena; an orangutan; and the zoo’s Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, who all have to fight for survival. Predators meet predators on this small lifeboat and eventually it comes down to two: Pi and Richard Parker. What remains is a 227 day journey during which they both must fight hunger, the elements, hallucinations and try to work together in order to survive.

Adult Pi is telling his tale to a novelist who wants to publish it for the world to hear, so it’s a story within a story, focusing on the one of survival being recalled. Suraj Sharma takes on the difficult task that Tom Hanks did in Cast Away: without a living actor to dialogue with most of the film, the story has to be told through Suraj himself—a life of loneliness where faith is tested and the things that are truly important in life are realized.

It’s hard enough for some directors to make most films visually interesting and entertaining for their audience. It’s even more difficult when the canvas the director has to paint on is a large body of water. But Ang Lee takes the tools he has been given and develops a piece that would make the great artists proud. From a long shot overhead of night where the water reflects the night sky, making it appear as if the life boat is drifting with the moon; to a close up of a Bengal tiger clinging for dear life, Lee brings a tranquility to the screen, a look at the human soul and how maybe we misconstrue “facts” at times because of our own biases and fears. A vision that, no matter who you are, you can work with anyone in this world to achieve a common goal and be successful. Lee’s vision of Life of Pi creates magic out of what could have easily been a boring survival story on the ocean and brings us onto that boat, allowing us to experience the daily struggles with Pi and Richard Parker.

Is the Life of Pi for everyone? Probably not. But I’ve yet to see a film that I would say is for absolutely everyone. Do I believe most people can take something from this film? That’s a definitive yes! Whether it’s just two hours of entertainment, a new perspective on life, a look at companionship, or for the magnificent visuals Ang Lee brings to the screen, the majority of people will be able to take something worthwhile from this film that has a tendency to touch the heart and have you root for the friendship between a man and a tiger, to root for their survival and to know that, if you really want something, you will find a way to obtain it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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