Based on the best selling book, Ang Lee brings the tale of an Indian boy stranded at sea to with a tiger to life in this highly visually film.
Ang Lee adapts Yann Martel’s novel for the screen with breathtaking style and with an air of fantasy. An uplifting tale about tragedy, Lee manages to overcome any melodrama the film could have and instead crafts a film that’s like watching a very lucid dream. The film begins with an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling his life story to a writer he’s just met, Yann Martel (Rafe Spall). Through this, the audience learns who Pi is, where he’s come from and what he wants out of life.
A spiritual boy who eventually becomes a Hindu, Christian and Muslim, he only does so to be closer to God. His father, the owner of a zoo, is a stern but fair man who tries to help Pi find one path instead of blindly following many. However due to political pressure, his father decides to sell the zoo and move the family to Canada where he’ll also sell the animals.
To travel with the animals, the family takes passage on a Japanese freighter, which meets a big storm and eventually sinks, while Pi is able to escape on a lifeboat. He soon discovers that he’s not alone—his companions being a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker. Not long after, it’s just Pi and the tiger floating out at sea. Instead of attempting to get rid of the tiger, Pi attempts to coexist with him and aids in keeping them both alive.
The film is a story about life but more importantly, hope. For Pi, he’s not only stranded at sea but his lifeboat is also occupied by a carnivorous beast. Instead of attempting to get rid of him, he simply creates another raft out of life vests and the tiger becomes his reason for staying alive. Instead of being alone, he has a companion to share the experience with and it’s something that can keep the hope alive within himself.
What sells the film is Lee’s decision to heighten reality just a little bit. Without ever looking fake, Pi’s story never looks fully real either. It’s a way to distance what is definitely a horrific tragedy from the screen and engage the audience in a story about hope. The actor that plays the younger Pi throughout much of the film, is newcomer Suraj Sharma who basically carries most of it on his shoulders alone, his main co-star being a tiger. Even when Pi begins to question God’s plan and welcome death, Sharma never appears defeated but worn out. He’s able to create a Pi that is sophisticated and intelligent, but also inherently optimistic. It’s definitely one of the year’s visually triumphant films and a tale that kids and adults alike can enjoy.
Rating: 4 out of 5