So, I think I'm still digesting this movie. I never read the book like so many millions did when it came out in 2001 by Yann Martel. Despite the numerous pleas from my family and friends, the book never appealed to me. The phrase, "Let me get this straight; there's a kid and a tiger on a boat in the middle of the ocean and that's the whole book?" And since that is the whole book, their answers never impressed me enough to pick it up. After seeing the movie, I'm still glad I didn't because the movie gave me a great sense of what the book would've been like and it definetly would have bored me.
That's not to say that this film is boring. At a running time of over two hours, Director Ang Lee has made a celebration of modern filmmaking and what can be accomplished. Lee is no stranger to special FX and is proving that he's sharpened his skills in using them into a dagger. He is probably one of the most (if not THE most) versatile directors out there. He's done Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm and Taking Woodstock. All of his films are dramatically different from one another in every way you can think of. I still say that Brokeback Mountain is his best film so far but Life of Pi has taken a close second.
Besides the amazing camera work, colors and CGI used, the best thing about Life of Pi is the discovery of its star. Suraj Sharma is wonderful in the film but Hollywood or the movie-going public being what it is in a slightly racist way, you'll probably never see him again. He captures the soul and heart of his titular character and does it all while acting against nothing but green screens and people in motion capture suits. He will make you laugh and break your heart at the same time and it's something I don't think the Academy should look away from.
There isn't a moment of this movie that I was bored. Impressive considering it's still just a story about a kid and a tiger stuck on a life boat in the middle of the ocean. That means that Ang Lee fulfilled his job as director in making the best movie he could. My issue with the film deals with the story and the ending. Full warning...SPOILERS AHEAD. I hate doing that in reviews but considering it's my sticking point with the movie and the book has been read by millions and has been out for over a decade, I think I'm safe.
What makes the book/movie so noteworthy is the ending. At the end of the film, when Pi is rescued, he's giving his story to insurance agents. It's there we discover that the whole story was a lie. The tiger and other animals on the boat never existed and instead were people that he actually knew including his mother. The older Pi, who's telling the story to a writer, tells him that he can choose which story he wants to accept as "truth"; the fantastic one that involved animals and mystery islands or the truth which involves the ugly darkness that is human nature and that they all turned on each other and killed themselves one-by-one. When the writer chooses the animals Pi responds with, "So it is with God."
Now, I'm not a religious person and maybe this is my projection on the story, but I took that to be an atheist tone. It was almost as if he was saying that God and Biblical stories are fantastic and dramatic and hard-to-believe but they're also lies. The reason why is because truth is dark and humanity is brutal; we need those fables to get us through. Fine enough, but at the beginning of the film we're told it's a story that will make you believe in God. It's almost as if the two don't add up at all and as if Martel doesn't even know what he's talking about.
I like movies that make you think and cause debate. Discussing the meaning behind or under films is one of my most favorite things to do. However Life of Pi felt like it is deep but without a meaning. Anyone can concoct a "deep and provactive" story but unless you have an agenda with it, I'm not impressed. Then you're just making a confusing story for the sake of making people talk. Maybe I would have liked it more if I read the book.
Life of Pi (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: B