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Review: ‘Life of Pi’ Reminds Us of What’s Truly Important in This World

I took in a screening of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi last evening with the hopes of watching some amazing 3D visuals and set pieces, but I walked away feeling like I just witnessed the meaning of life.  Life of Pi is based on the novel by Yann Martel and it features a cast of characters that will resonate with you for quite some time after leaving the theater.  The premise centers around the character of Pi Patel, and his perspectives on life as seen through his eyes.  We first meet Pi as an adult who is being interviewed by an author about his life’s story, namely his harrowing tale of survival on a life boat with zoo animals after the freighter he and his family were on sinks.

If you’re only idea of what this film is about is based on the trailers, you’re gravely mistaken.  Life of Pi isn’t a story about a cast away and his tiger.  It’s a lesson on what’s important in life told with visuals and characters that will impact you the moment the trailers end and the movie begins.

Life of Pi 3D

EB 9.5 out of 10 Buddhas

The Awesome

  • 3D effect is top notch
  • Amazing story of survival and love
  • It’ll remind you to focus on the important things in life

The Not so Awesome

  • Occasional CGI issues with Richard Parker (The tiger)

Pi Patel has now become one of my favorite movie characters of the past decade.  His tale, as told by his grown up self to an author looking for a new project, is a grandiose one with an important lesson that will make even the most stone like individual’s heart smile a bit.  Like I mentioned earlier I went into this film with the expectations of watching a visual masterpiece, which it is, but at its core Life of Pi is a reminder of what’s important in life rather than a treat for your eyes.  Pi’s story is one of heart ache and loss, but through it all he stands strong, and by the end he relates to us in one way or another the importance of relationships, be it with family members, other humans, or even animals.

Pi in one of the many beautiful set pieces found in Life of Pi

We get to see Pi shaped into the man he becomes through a series of scenes that begin with his five year old self.  Early on he uses his intelligence to win over his classmates who first berated him for having a name that sounds like “pissing”.  With this simple setup we get to see early on the type of person Pi Patel is, which helps setup his believable journey as a cast away on the Pacific Ocean.

The next time we meet Pi is when he is 11, and once again we are shown a lesson he was taught that will come into play later on in the film.  Little Pi is full of questions that need answering, and he’s not afraid to discover these answers on his own.  In one particular scene Pi takes his older brother to the family zoo to see their new tiger named Richard Parker.  At this point in time Pi is still quite naive and tries to feed the tiger by hand.  His stern, yet wise Father catches him in the act and teaches him a harsh lesson about life and the dangers of wild animals.  This lesson affects Pi severely, and it serves as his awakening to the fact that life isn’t as magical as he once thought as a young boy.  This same lesson also helps to save his life once he ends up in a life boat with Richard Parker and some other animal kingdom guests, but we’ll get to that a little later on.

Richard Parker is a mack daddy

 

After Pi’s lesson in the dangers of life, we meet him again as a teenager who has lost some of his self due to his Father’s eye opening experience.  To make things worse his family has to leave India behind and move to Canada, which separates him from his newest passion in life, girls.  Again, all of these glimpses into Pi’s young life help to setup his character for the journey ahead, and the meat of the movie, which is the shipwreck.

As Pi and his family are relocating themselves, and their animals (they owned a zoo and needed to sell the animals), the Japanese freighter they were on mysteriously sinks.  Pi is able to save himself due to some shenanigans he was up to, but in the process he ends up in a life boat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and his most feared nemesis from his past – Richard Parker the Bengal tiger.  Like I stated earlier this is where the bulk of the movie is set, and this is also where Pi learns his most valuable life lessons of loss, love, faith, and determination.

I loved the scenes that took place on the life boat because they provided some of the most awe inspiring cinematography I’ve seen this year on film.  There’s a scene when he first gets on the life boat and needs to quickly exit due to a new passenger arriving, and he’s forced underwater.  While underwater and suspended in a state of weightlessness we get to see Pi’s silhouette set against the backdrop of the massive Japanese freighter as it’s sinking.  At this point, just through visuals, I could feel the pain that Pi was obviously experiencing as he watched everything he knew sink to the bottom of the ocean.  This scenes also serves as Pi’s fight or flight moment as he realizes that he’ll die if he doesn’t get back on his life boat, which now resembles a mini-zoo rather than a life saving vessel.

Pi watching his world literally sing into oblivion

Once returning to the life boat Pi must accept his fate and deal with the cards dealt to him, which is living on a small boat with the aforementioned wild animals, and a tiger who needs to eat.  Going into this movie I thought the whole premise would be about Pi’s relationship with Richard Parker (the tiger), and in a sense it is, but in reality Richard Parker is a device to help Pi grow emotionally and spiritually, and to help him come to terms with what’s important in life, which is the personal bonds we form throughout our lives with both humans and animals.

Being a cat lover I was personally touched by the love hate bond between Pi and Richard Parker.  It isn’t a Disney movie relationship either.  It’s real life.  Tigers and humans aren’t meant to be friends, and that’s made clear in Life of Pi, but at the same time this relationship between boy and tiger is what helps Pi to realize what is most important to him, and that’s his relationships with his family, and his tumultuous relationship with a cast away tiger who teaches him the importance of saying a simple goodbye.

Their journey together is one full of laughs, heartache, and at times tears.  While on the life boat the two must learn to survive with each other, and not remain foes.  At first this isn’t clear to Richard Parker, but through determination and grit Pi finally is able to establish himself as the lead cat, and the two eventually become friends.  It’s this relationship that keeps Pi alive as he’s forced to not only keep himself alive, but he also has to keep a tiger alive while they’re floating aimlessly on the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually they become friends, but not as close as Pi believed

By the end of Pi and Richard Parker’s journey you’ll have experienced a plethora of emotions, and the character of Pi will begin to resonate with you in ways that most movie characters can not.  I found myself reliving moments of my own life where I had to buck up and accept the fate given to me.  Like Pi, I struggled with these moments, and lost focus on what is really important in life.  And like Pi I wasn’t able to realize what’s important until I reached my darkest moment.  This enligthenment is what makes Life of Pi such a special movie.  Through amazing visuals and harrowing situations, we are shown that no matter what happens to us we will always have our personal relationships to give us comfort in both this life and beyond.

Life of Pi is one of those movies that just makes you feel good while watching it, and for many hours after it ends.  Ang Lee has crafted a beautiful looking movie with some amazing set pieces that look awe inspiring in 3D.  Its cinematography will make your brain’s jaw drop at times, but it’s your heart that will come away with the most joy after watching it.  I’m a man in every sense of the word, but Life of Pi even made me feel a mix of emotions in my heart.  This movie made me forget about all the crap in life that really doesn’t mean anything in the end, and helped me to focus on the important things in life once again.

One of many amazing scenes from Life of Pi

After walking away from this movie I couldn’t help but feel that it’s a modern day Forrest Gump.  An old Pi recounts his life’s tales to an author just like Forrest tells his stories to people on a bus bench.  Both characters recount the lessons they learned to those who were listening to them, and at the same time they were also teaching the audience.  Both lived through some improbable situations, and lived to tell about it.  Both experienced great loss, but both managed to not let it destroy them.  Both characters made me feel good inside, and I think you’ll feel the same way after watching Life of Pi.

When it’s all said and done Life of Pi is a fantastic tale about life, and the struggles it presents to all of us.  Through a unique situation we as the audience are shown the meaning of life, and are tasked with taking Pi’s experiences and applying them to our own lives.  This movie will get you emotional in every sense of the word.  If it doesn’t you’re a bigger robot than myself.  I didn’t shed a tear, but I was deeply touched, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need from a movie to get away from the duldroms of everyday life.

I give Life of Pi an impressive EB 9.5 out of 10 Buddhas, and can recommend it to anyone looking for an awesome movie going expeience.  Trust me, I typically only enjoy science fiction or action films, but Life of Pi is one of those movies that broke through my geek shield with a punch in the face.  Go see it with a loved one, and enjoy each other’s company.  It’s well worth the two hour time investment to get your perspective on life readjusted.

 Life Of Pi – Official Trailer

 

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Tags : Film Review
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.