|Story of a castaway pitted against the elements of nature will always sound exciting to start with. The only issue with the theme is that it is dangerously close to that of the Old Man and the Sea. Which means that comparisons can " spoil the spoils " for you. So if you are another fan of the legendary Hemingway novel, you'd better go into the movie with sufficiently pared down expectations.
And if you do that, you won't likely be disappointed . Life of Pi (LOP) has its tenets all in place. Being shipwrecked in the pacific with only a Tiger for company, throws open just about infinite possibilities. And Director Ang Lee does justice to most bar a few.
The first 40 minutes builds up the background to the Life of Pi as it happened until the fateful moment of shipwreck. This includes warm sunny landscapes of French Pondicherry and the ' education ' Pi received from sources other than his school (bedtime stories told by his mother, the Church clergy, the Mosque and his Father).
The next hour and 15 minutes are used to recount the castaway part (in flashback), interspersed with dialogues between the narrator (played by Irrfan Khan) and the Writer (Rafe Spall). 3D is used to good effect out in the ocean what with so many treats including (but not limited to) flying fishes, carnivorous ponds/forests, outlines of giant sharks and last but not the least the computer generated Tiger "Richard Parker".
Acting isn't much of an issue. Suraj Sharma, appears every bit a teenage Pondicherry lad who is perennially intrigued by animal psychology. Tabu's role is rather small to comment much on. And since Richard Parker and rest of the 'cast' are mostly animals (possibly all computer generated), their performances will probably best be measured by speciality softwares. I thought the best of the lot was Adil Hussain playing Pi's father. He had to act out a gamut of emotions and did a good job of it in the end.
The movie has a definite message although it may not have anything to do with Love for animals. The message is best summed up when Pi, having told the Writer both the stories, asks him to choose one and the writer chooses the one with the animals; and Pi promptly replies " and so it goes with God ".
This in many answers one of his own questions raised earlier "Why didn't Richard Parker bother to give him a ceremonious goodbye before disappearing into the jungles in Mexico ? And this might even answer similar questions that many of us living in the modern day world might have. Questions that revolve around the assumption that Man is superior to beings around him and therefore deserves special treatment.
The message underlines the importance (and the benefits) of being a part of elements of nature rather than trying to rise above them . It also underscores the need to deal with "unpleasant beings" in day to day life, not as an avoidable detraction but as an unavoidable necessity.
I don't usually suggest watching movies in 3D, but in this case I'm inclined to do that. As against most other 3D movies in the recent past that have been filmed under dark, murky conditions, much of "Life of Pi" has been filmed in broad daylight or well lit backgrounds meaning using 3D glasses wouldn't strain your eyes too much . And the effects of 3D can actually be enjoyed.
There are actually very few issues to really complain about. One being the plot, or the exchanges, as it were, between the Tiger and Pi in the middle of the ocean. I mean you can't fathom being out for 227 days in the Pacific without frequent attacks from sharks or boisterous storms that would wreak havoc on your lifeboat. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of innovations that you'll have to manufacture to survive in similar circumstances. Which is where the movie is lacking a bit. The exchanges between Pi and Parker, good as they are, are not enough for a 227 day survival stint on the Pacific .
I have not read the novel by Yann Martel but its easy to see that faithfulness of adaptation is something that will always be questioned whenever a movie is based on a literary work. Some might question even the duration of the movie and suggest it could have been prolonged into a 2 episode flick to do justice to the essence of the novel . That may well have been true but for the fact that there really isn't so much of action, physical or mental, that would justify such an extension.
The movie isn't only about 'faith'. In The Almighty or even otherwise. Or even yourself. Its also a great deal about having faith in the credibility of the stories around you. Stories that might seem improbable or even impossible. Stories that might have an element of malafide intention or some ulterior motive. Or stories that your own heart doesn't want you to believe. It's only at the end when the writer reads out from the Japanese freight company's report, that we realize that story of the Tiger might have been a fictitious one and the ones with human beings, the true story !!
Truth will always be truth. Believe what you will. Maybe it doesn't matter all that much !!