Thursday, December 20, 2012

Life of Pi


My experience with Ang Lee has been hit or miss. On one hand, I remember enjoying "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", but I also didn't care for his iteration of the Marvel comics character in "Hulk". I therefore didn't want to get my expectations too high for the already critically hyped "Life of Pi", though the promotional material made that difficult. The poster looked intriguing, implicating a survival story of a young man stranded on a life boat with a Siberian tiger. The trailer also bolstered incredible visuals, which is a staple in Ang Lee films.

The story is told by an adult Pi, recounting his incredible life to a reporter looking for inspiration. Pi prefaces his tale by promising the young reporter that the story will make him believe in God. The reporter is skeptical, but clearly interested in what Pi has to say. Pi grew up in India, the son of zoo keepers. He has great interest in many types of religion, helping him gain a unique relationship with his creator. When the family is forced to sell their animals overseas and start a new life in America, however, the transport ship is sunk in a gargantuan storm, resulting in the death of Pi's entire family and eventually leaving him with no one but Richard Parker, a Siberian Tiger, for company.

This film has a fairly simple plot, but the experience of Pi's physical and spiritual journey is what makes this movie a must-see. "Life of Pi" is the best kind of storytelling in my opinion, as it asks the viewer to analyze and construct their own meaning from the material presented. There are many different interpretations that can be inferred from the movie, which is refreshing in a Hollywood climate of force-fed metaphors and explicit political agendas. It's the simplicity in the story that makes it so captivating in many ways. By removing all other superfluous motivations and boiling it down to survival and faith, the story becomes so much more relatable and accessible.

The only criticism I can think of is that some of it can be hard to watch at times. I am an animal lover, and seeing innocent creatures killed in front of you can be off-putting. Nevertheless, "Life of Pi" is a beautiful achievement, and a terrific adaptation of a book once believed to be "unfilmable". The Lord of the Rings was once categorized in a similar fashion, but such a challenge usually results in remarkable advances in technology and storytelling. This movie did for me something that the "Lord of the Rings" film series did: it made me want to read the source material. In short, this is a great film, an ambitious feat that needs to be seen to believed. I give "Life of Pi" a solid three and a half stars.

LIFE OF PI is rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.