Life of Pi is beautiful and interesting but long and repetitive
‘Life of Pi’ looks amazing, and has some great acting moments, but it’s kind of forgettable.
When you’ve lost everything but yourself, how hard will you work to stay sane or alive? What limits can a person push themselves to stay alive — and how much can you believe about insane tales of survival?
From director Ang Lee, Life of Pi (based on the book by Yann Martel) tells the story of a young Indian boy named Pi (Suraj Sharma), who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger and must survive both the journey and the predator. Wrapped in a story about an older Pi (Irrfan Khan, who you might recognize from his small villainous role in The Amazing Spider-Man) telling his tale to an unnamed novelist (Rafe Spall), we immediately lose any real tension about whether or not Pi survives. Although this is an issue with the book too, which for the most part, is fairly similar to the film.
Through a series of unlikely events designed to contrive the entire bizarre premise of the book and therefore “prove the existence of God” (which doesn’t sound pretentious at all, of course), Pi ends up surviving a disaster at sea and floats aimlessly across the Pacific Ocean with only a Bengal tiger for company. And this is not a tame tiger. So Pi must somehow use the minimal tools available and his own upbringing working at a zoo in India to coexist. Suraj Sharma, as the sole human actor for the majority of this slightly over two hour movie (the rest is mostly CGI) is really excellent, acting against mostly nothing, going through every emotion imaginable as he struggles to survive. The story is sort of ridiculous, but that’s the book again — the draw here is the interesting story of survival (and how cleverness and ingenuity trump animal fury) and the honestly astounding visuals.
The 3-D is used in a typical way for much of the movie, but sometimes there are breathtaking visions and dreamscapes of great imagination and personality. The narrative device of telling the story is really similar to the book, which took a lot of smug pleasure in its metaphors. If you think of it as just a narrator independent of anything else, it works better. There are a few missteps in the story (not revealed for the sake of spoilers) which turn haunting scenes in the book into merely mildly exciting scenes in the movie. The film does not really need to be as long as it is — although it does grant a connection of very long waiting to be shared with the title character.
After it’s all over, it probably won’t really affect your belief or faith in a higher power, but it still feels inspirational about what a person can do even under the most dire straits imaginable. And the images will likely resonate in your memory long after the rest of the movie has faded.