Life of Pi (2012)
Release Date: November 21st, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Ang Lee Actors: Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Shravanthi Sainath
ife of Pi” offers a fantastical fable with an intriguing moral. Though the journey is unnecessarily lengthy at times, the compelling adventure remains engaging and visually enchanting until the conclusion. It is here that the purpose of the extraordinary tale is revealed, as well as a shattering revelation that almost completely negates all the wonderment that has transpired before it. Although it’s meant to be profound and thought provoking, it arrives far too late and feels tactless and unwelcome. Much like 2006’s “The Fall” and 2007’s “Atonement,” a promising pilgrimage falls victim to truth, credibility and necessity. Why must bitter reality always rear its ugly head in such parables?
A writer (Rafe Spall), disenchanted by his recent journalistic efforts, is referred to the amazing survival story of Pi Patel (Irfan Khan). Growing up in India where his parents run a local zoo, young Pi (Suraj Sharma) leads an exotic but simple life. When grim economic times force his family to sell the animals, the Patels board the Japanese freighter Tsimtsum and head to Canada to start anew. But tragedy strikes and a violent storm sinks the cargo ship, leaving Pi stranded aboard a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a vicious Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.
“Life of Pi” is quite the conundrum. All at once it presents itself as an outlandish fairy tale – a fable representing darker truths and a terrible secret masked by imaginative fabrications – a whimsical coming-of-age adventure, and an agonizing survival story (perhaps as nail-biting as “Open Water,” “Cast Away,” or “Lifeboat”). This is cleverly disguised with stunning computer animation and bold cinematography. But beneath the ruses is a twist, a falsity that betrays the emotions and tenderness built up over the course of nearly two hours. Oddly, it’s too much too late – a wealth of information that will make audiences question everything they witnessed prior, and likely cause dubiousness of the religious angles being pressured. For a film pushing the importance of beliefs and the abiding nature of God (or gods), these last minute notes appear entirely contradictory.
Inconsistent themes aside, “Life of Pi” is an astounding visual pleasure. The shipwreck and storm segments rival “The Perfect Storm,” while the tiger is almost seamlessly integrated into its environment (despite the small boat performing shapeshifting feats of compartmental concealment). Many of the shots are so nearly perfect, the computer animation barely reveals itself. Newcomer Suraj Sharma is also splendidly convincing, acting assuredly to imaginary creatures, which were later inserted digitally. Pi speaks of the millions of Hindu gods and their superhero status in his imagination, as well as the impact multiple religions and persistent faith had on his perilous journey, so it’s no wonder that his chronicle is plagued with questionable exaggerations (how much meat would a Bengal tiger really need to stay alive over the course of 227 days?). But can the final examination of morals and thinly stretched realities really be summed up in Pi’s postulation that “faith is a house with many rooms”?
– The Massie Twins