Life of Pi (2012)
Director Ang Lee’s openly spiritual survival drama is really all about a kid, a lifeboat, and a tiger. Or is it? Based on the best-selling book, Life of Pi is a hard movie to put into words. You can assess what you’ve seen on screen but the emotional experience and the narrative purpose are a little trickier to nail. Our main character, Pi, is trying to survive adrift in the ocean, his only “companion” an angry tiger. I appreciated that the tiger acts, well, mostly like a tiger; ferocious, scared, territorial, and hungry for some tasty Pi. Just because they’re stuck together doesn’t mean this wild animal becomes cuddly. Lee has put careful attention into crafting a film that uses 3D artfully, and you can tell a big difference from the normal slapdash efforts made for an extra buck. The shipwreck scene is terrifying, the moments of wonder at sea are majestic, and the tiger is a marvel of CGI, rarely looking fake. Despite the life-and-death circumstances, I cannot say I was truly emotionally invested in the story, and I think that has to do with the reveal at the end. I won’t spoil it but we find out the story is also an allegory and there’s a deeper, sadder meaning to the dramatic events onscreen. The very nature of storytelling as a means of psychological redress is an idea worth pondering by film’s end. I just don’t know if it was a strong enough ending to send me on my way. The movie looks great, it’s imaginative and contemplative, but by the end, Life of Pi hadn’t convinced me about the existence of God, as it promised to do, but left me emotionally at arm’s length. Maybe that’s subtext for man’s relationship with God, but I won’t go there. I wish Pi’s emotional journey was held to the same level of art as the physical struggle.
Nate’s Grade: B