Life of Pi is a movie I’d been looking forward to for a very long time. I had read the book years ago and the visuals that author Yann Martel vividly describes always struck me as perfect for the big screen. When master director Ang Lee was pegged to helm the film adaptation it was a match made in heaven. Lee’s “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” is still one of the most visually stunning films ever made. Lee doesn’t disappoint, "Life of Pi" is full of breathtaking visuals that bring the written word to life. The film and book follow a young boy named Pi from the zoo his family owns in India, where he makes a soulful connection with a tiger named Richard Parker, and also finds that he believes in just about all the major religions. When his father sells the zoo and takes his family and some of the animals to Canada by sea their boat crashes, and Pi finds himself on a life boat with the Tiger Richard Parker, a zebra, a hyena and an orangutan.
The visuals in “Life of Pi” are stunning, Lee and his team fully developed the look of this film to balance between realism and fantasy. Although the actor and the real tiger were never in the boat at the same time, you wouldn’t believe it, and while the CGI in the beginning is a little too cartoony, midway through you’ve fully bought into this world and these effects. The giant whale that visits Pi is both magnificent and terrifying as it jumps into the air and crashes back down disappearing below the ocean surface. The pacing of the film starts very slow and the first 30 minutes are all pretty much spent on Pi’s childhood which I explained in about one sentence, but that’s ok. The narrative device that Martel used in the book of Pi recalling the story to a Canadian journalist is fully implored here and it takes time to set that up and bring the audience in. Ang Lee proved again that he can handle multitudes of style and execution, not many directors can balance the fine art of filmmaking while also entertaining the mass American audience.
It’s only a matter of time before Pi is coming to grips with not only the animals but with his God as well. Director Ang Lee masterfully navigates the inner struggle of a survivor at sea and the delicate relationship that is struck between the boy and his tiger. Will the harrowing struggle to stay alive shake Pi’s faith? This question is the crux of the film but as Martel did in the book director Ang Lee is never heavy handed in the telling of this story and Pi’s journey as well as the major reveal at the end leave you understanding your own faith and its role in your life. Many critics have called the story a defense of faith but I’ve really struggled with that outlook on the film. In many ways the story makes the faithful seem foolish, but I guess in the end that is why they call it faith, you can’t define it, you can’t explain it you just have to have it.
24 Frames host Paul Hunton reviews Life of Pi in this week's 24 Frames on 89.1FM.