Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie Review: "Life of Pi"

It took me a few times to get into Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize-winning novel, but once I did, I marveled at its lyricism and evocative imagery. The story with a spiritual center, about a young man adrift at sea with only a tiger from his family's zoo as both nemesis and companion, took nearly 10 years and the touch of Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to get to the screen.

Was it worth the wait? Yes, and no.

Piscine Molitor Patel (named for a French swimming pool), who is finally able to convince his classmates to call him Pi (instead of the more obscene version of his full first name), is raised in the French section of Pondicherry, India, by his zoo-owner father and botanist mother. He is a tremendously curious and passionate boy, interested in learning and embracing many different religions and ideas, and believes that all animals have souls, a lesson his father quickly (and somewhat traumatically) disabuses him of.

When Pi (Suraj Sharma) is a teenager, his parents decide to sell the animals and move to Canada, so the Patels and their animals embark on an Asian sailing vessel. A disaster at sea leaves Pi alone, with only the zoo's ornery Bengal Tiger, named Richard Parker, for company. Pi's ingenuity and desire to survive helps him navigate some potentially dangerous situations while he and the tiger are lost at sea, and he has plenty of time to ponder spirituality and how to keep Richard Parker alive without him feeding on Pi.

The story is recounted, with humor and sensitivity, by the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan), as he shares his adventures with a writer (Rafe Spall) sent to Pi by his uncle. These reminiscences serve as punctuation that actually helps goose the movie a little bit, because at times it feels as adrift as Pi and Richard Parker.

This is one of the most scenically beautiful movies I've seen in some time. Pi's encounters with nature bring him closer to God, and the imagery Ang Lee uses to tell the story is truly eye-opening. It is a bit slow at times, as the tiger isn't much on dialogue, but the story—and the way it resolves—is a heartfelt, emotional one.

I've been vacillating between whether or not this movie is worth seeing in the theater or watching at home. I'd say if you have a fairly good DVD system and a large television, you can wait, because you'll be able to see the imagery as Lee intended. If not, see it in the theater. It's not action-packed by any means, but it's beautifully sensitive, with spirit and heart at its core.


  1. good review, I like your writing.

  2. May have been a bit sloppy in terms of writing, but the visuals are breathtaking and something that will definitely have your eyes advert on the screen the whole time. Good review.