What could be worse than being ripped from your family in a torrential storm and cast out to sea, alone and adrift? How about being alone with some wild animals? One of them being a fearsome Bengal Tiger!
Such is the plight of a teenage boy in “Life of Pi”. But instead of being a sad and depressing tale, “Life of Pi” is a magical, miraculous tale of survival and beauty. Directed by award winning Ang Lee, the movie stars a trio of unknowns as the adventurous Pi, as a youth, a teen and the middle aged man.
Pi’s life in India, while not rich, is idyllic and unconventional. His family owns a zoo and from the very first frames of a sloth on a tree, the movie is filled with stunning imagery. When Pi’s Dad decides to move the whole family to Canada, they take their magnificent menagerie with them as their only means of monetary value. But Pi is awakened by a horrific storm and his delight at the turmoil turns to terror when it becomes apparent that the freighter is going down at rapid speed. What ensues is a spectacle every bit as mesmerizing and fearsome as James Cameron’s depiction of the “Titanic” in its death throes.
In the end Pi is set adrift for months with Richard Parker, their zoo’s prime predator. How the two manage to survive without any real food or water is a mystery and a wonder. The adult Pi, tells the story of his life to a writer looking for a good tale.
Pi is no ordinary Indian boy. He embraces several religions and thus spirituality plays a big part in his outlook on life and its dark twin, death. Each day at sea brings a new challenge and revelation to his soul. The imagery is startling. And Richard Parker is a sight to behold. You know that the tiger must be CGI magic pretty much all of the time but he is done so beautifully you can’t trust your eyes to know what is real and what isn’t.
It is the same with the very story of Pi’s survival. In the end you are left to wonder how much, if anything, is real and what isn’t. But instead of being frustrated you turn Pi’s story in your mind over and over again and revel in the wonder of it all.
Pi is played beautifully by Ayush Tandon as a 12 year old, humbly by Irrfan Khan as the world weary, philosophical adult and most impressively by Suraj Sharma as the intrepid survivor. That Suraj turns in an inspirational, fierce and tender performance, much of it alone and in the water is indeed impressive. But to think that this is his first acting role is truly remarkable. Director Ang Lee, in my humble opinion, proves he is at the top of his game and continues to showcase flexibility in his story telling. Unlike so many of today’s popular directors, he in no one trick pony.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that so enthralled me. I highly recommend “Life of Pi” as a richly rewarding experience and my personal pick for Best Film of 2012.
“Life of Pi” comes ashore with 5 Red Vines for being a perfect movie experience
A preview of this movie was provided by the studio but in no way affects this review.