Overview: Life of Pi tells the story of a young man’s struggle for survival after he’s lost at sea with only the company of a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. 20th Century Fox; 2012; Rated PG; 127 minutes.
Themes. So Many Themes: Life of Pi begins with a promise: Pi Patel has a story that can make you believe in God. It’s an ambitious claim, but if ever one word perfectly summed up Life of Pi, it would be just that…. ambitious. Director Ang Lee doesn’t shy away from major themes about life, death, religion, acceptance and finding a place in the world. Despite being riddled with lofty messages, Life of Pi is a tale told with a surprising amount of grace and understanding. It never feels too preachy.
Pi: The film opens in a zoo in India. Our main character, Pi, is a boy who determines his own destiny. When classmates make fun of his name, he changes it. When he discovers a religion he likes, he follows it. Pi considers himself a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim. When the family zoo goes broke, Pi, his family and a number of zoo animals board a ship and head for a new life. They never make it. The ship goes down and suddenly the film is one of survival. Of faith tested. Pi is trapped alone in a lifeboat with a tiger, which is named Richard Parker because of an old clerical error. Suraj Sharma is so comfortable in the role of Pi that it’s hard to believe it’s his debut as an actor. When Pi cries, the viewer is inclined to cry with him. When he shouts for joy, we want to stand and cheer. We feel what Pi feels.
A Visual Masterpiece: Pi’s days at sea provide some of the most gorgeous shots I’ve ever seen in filmmaking. The technology here is breathtaking and just when you think you’ve seen the best shot Life of Pi has to offer, something more impressive — like a massive, glittering, breaching whale — comes along. In one view of the water, the reflection is so clear that you can’t tell where the sky begins and the ocean ends. It’s positively transcendent.
Even the mundane appears beautiful and complex. Every shot, be it the open doorway of a church, a lush green island or the face of an impressively computer generated tiger, is a marvel.
So, Does it Really Make You Believe in God?: To reveal how this film argues God’s existence would be an insult to a brilliant piece of storytelling. I will tell you that the ending is so chilling that it rendered me breathless for a moment. If nothing else, it invokes compelling ideas about faith. Is the film truly successful? Can it make you believe in God? I believe Pi said it best. “As for God, I can only tell you my story. You’ll decide for yourself what you believe.” Boy, what a story he tells.