Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) and a fierce Bengal tiger named Richard Parker must rely on each other to survive an epic journey.
Life of Pi goes on a spiritual journey.
Despite the myriad visual and special effects, director Ang Lees soulful Life of Pi shines through the technical wizardry while leaving the viewer (thankfully) with more questions than answers.
Adapted from the 2001 novel of the name, Pi explores the life of Piscine Pi Patel and his infatuation with religions at an early age. His faith is put to the test when the family leaves India for a better life and are subsequently shipwrecked, leaving Pi as the only survivor. Well, him and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
After surviving 227 days at sea, Patel is left with a clear definition of what god is and a story almost too good to be true.
It should be noted that much of the material is understandably painted with large brushstrokes. There is a bigger emphasis on the film relying on previous source materials Noahs ark, the story of Job and Moacyr Scliars 1981 novella Max and the Cats to carry the films concept than original thought.
While that would normally be cause for lambasting, Its more exception than rule considering that Pi is more about immersion, symbolism and the art of storytelling.
For a film that is so heavily spiritually oriented, yet universally appealing, it is a near impossible task. Lees decision to eschew knotty storytelling for the gigantic grand gestures fits the tone of the film beautifully.
Easily ranking among Lees best work, Pi is the worthy offspring of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. While the two films are polar opposites, you can see the artistic growth in the director by the effortless blending of the two in his third and latest release.
And thats really the trick. To be inundated with concepts of faith, healing, absolution and deconstruction of spirit while watching utter 3D phantasmagoria is a brilliant sleight of hand. Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar have nothing on Ang Lee.
Acting newcomer Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan work well in tandem as the young and old Pi. Sharma, a 17-year-old student, isnt so much acting as reacting, which is great. You dont need to know what panic looks like as much as how to react to what is causing the panic. Thats what made Tom Hanks performance in Cast Away so visceral and Sharma does it here. Playing against Sharma, Khans soothing and subdued effort is hypnotic adding an effective counterbalance.
The great thing about Life of Pi is that the film is heavy without being crushed under its own weight. Make time to see it. Its worth the price of admission.