* * * (Joyce)
(Ethereal, grandiose, metaphorical adventure)
Ang Lee's ethereal, grandiose, metaphorical "Life of Pi" is movie-making at its best. It can be taken simply as one great adventure story, or it can be seen as a metaphor for life, or even as one big fantasy. I loved the movie, actually seeing it in all three forms, while Joyce thought it was a bit too far out.
Opening in an idyllic zoo in India, with beautiful shots of a variety of birds and animals, the scene shifts to Canada, where a grown Pi Patel (Irffan Khan) is telling an enthralled writer (and movie audience) his incredible life story.
It begins with Pi's life in India and his father's decision to sell his zoo and move his family and many of the animals to Canada and start a new life. They board a Japanese freighter and are crossing the Pacific Ocean when a huge storm sinks the ship.
Pi, now played by an unknown Indian boy who had never acted (Suraj Sharma), finds himself in a lifeboat with a vicious Bengal tiger, an orangutan, a zebra and a hyena as his companions. Talk about survival of the fittest! It comes down to the tiger and the teen sharing the small space of the lifeboat, forcing Pi to construct a raft tied to the boat to escape the wrath of the tiger.
The long journey at sea is nothing short of tense and fantastic. At times the two creatures fight for their lives but eventually they learn how to co-exist.
Lee at times uses a real tiger and at times a computer animated one, and it is hard to tell the difference. This is one of the few films that we would recommend seeing in 3D. Lee uses images and depth to his advantage, drawing the audience into the adventure at sea.
I viewed the film as a metaphor of life, survival, death, conflict and the search for God. As a youth, Pi wanted to believe in a greater being, exploring a variety of religious faiths and developing his own beliefs, which are constantly challenged.
You know that Pi survives because he is telling his story. He also tells his story to Japanese investigators who are trying to figure out how the ship sank. They don't believe him and ask for a credible explanation, which Pi finally and frustratingly gives them.
It is at this point in the movie that the audience is challenged to make up their own minds as to whether to accept the story at face value or to see it as a metaphor. Whatever you take from the movie, you will experience a journey like no other you have ever seen.
Rated PG, with intense scenes that may frighten the young ones.