Walking into Life of Pi, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I've never read the book and the only real backstory I had on the film was passing by a poster for it once or twice. Walking out, I was ultimately glad I decided to go see it. While it is not a film without flaws, it is also one that has some great moments throughout its 127 minutes.
Life of Pi is the story of Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), a 16-year-old boy who is stranded alone on a lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, chimpanzee and Bengal tiger after a freighter trip to Canada with his family goes awry. The film's plot uses a frame narrative structure, meaning the plot is actually a story told by other characters to cover a long period of time in only a couple hours. In this case, that character is the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling his breathtaking life story to an aspiring writer (Rafe Spall). The film also stars Tabu as Pi's mother and Ayush Tandon as the pre-teen Pi Patel.
Let me start off by saying this: Life of Pi ultimately does more things right than it does wrong. I genuinely found most of the characters likable and loved the impressive cinematography that will certainly compete for some awards down the line. This is also a movie noticeably filled with heart from start to finish that leaves you with some very interesting thoughts about things like God and the nature of man. Also, I found Sharma's performance as Pi to be a standout of the film. He really will resonate with a lot of viewers because his character is very relatable and his emotions make sense.
That being said, this feels like a much longer movie than it actually is. It feels much closer to three hours than two and part of that lies on Ang Lee's direction. While I do admire how gorgeous many of the film's shots are, the longer shots are simply at the wrong time. With a film about being isolated at sea, Lee should've emphasized this feeling of loneliness with long shots while Pi was at sea. Instead, we get a beginning credits sequence at a zoo that feels like it goes on forever. I love adorable animals as much as the next guy, but that sequence goes on way too long, especially since the movie takes a good bit of time to really get started anyways. Also, I found the character of Pi's dad to be a little too one-dimensional. We are never really given motives for why he acts how he does and that took me out of the film a bit.
Like I said earlier though, Life of Pi does more things right than it does wrong. The whole relationship between Pi and the tiger is handled perfectly. The tiger (named Richard Parker) is genuinely terrifying and actually feels dangerous. Even after their relationship has developed more, you never lose sense that the tiger could turn on Pi at any time and kill him. The freighter sinking sequence and storm sequence are also highlights of the film, adding on to my belief that this is probably one of the prettiest looking films of the year.
Ultimately, Life of Pi may not be perfect but it has a lot of heart and is fun to watch. It's not a bad film at all. It's actually a very good film. Its flaws just keep the film from reaching that level of greatness I desperately wanted it to reach. They took me out of what could have otherwise been a contender for one of my favorite movies of the year. If you're looking for something fun to do on the weekend with your family or friends. go see Life of Pi. The visuals alone will leave you speechless.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jordan Ray is a sophomore journalism major from Houston, Texas.