It is not too often that I am left without words, unable to distinctively articulate my thoughts on a film. But, when it comes to Ang Lee’s newest release Life of Pi, it is difficult to summarize the depth and beauty brought to the screen in the form of this original film.
Based on Canadian author Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi is the story of a boy who has spent his life in India as the son of a zoo owner. From the start, Pi (Suraj Sharma) has a charmed existence, surrounded by exotic animals that he feels a particular connection to. From the time he was a young boy, he has been fascinated by several religions and carries a quiet pride of how he has come to know God. His faith and ability to stay in tune with his spirit is put to the test when he finds himself stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a lifeboat and a handful of exotic animals, which includes a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Pi’s story is told from his perspective as a grown man; he reveals his tale of survival to a writer (Rafe Spall), while promising to “make him believe there is a God.”
Many fans of Martel’s top-selling novel were excited yet skeptical when the news first broke that the story was to be transformed to the big screen, and with good reason. The extraordinary details of this story and a supporting cast that is made up mostly by zoo animals could have easily turned this beautiful tale into a cheesy portrayal. Too heavy on the special effects and a thoughtless screenplay would have been the recipe of its demise. But, bookworms can rest easy. The film does the story justice by using a measured amount of digital effects to enhance the extraordinary journey of a young boy caught in a devastating situation of having to fight to stay alive on a lifeboat with wild animals after surviving a shipwreck that swallowed his entire family.
Life of Pi leaves its audience in a pensive state. What would I do if I were lost in the middle of the ocean with little food, water and other mammals that saw me as prey? Would I survive? What would I be willing to do to at least try and survive? These are all questions I asked as the credits rolled. But more than a mind taken over by inquisition, I left with an overwhelming sense of empathy and marvel at what is in fact a simple story about will and perseverance, yet perfectly disguised as a tall tale.