As a child, Pi (Suraj Sharma), was so obsessed with a tiger his father, Santosh (Adil Hussain), a zoo keeper, had caged in their home in Pondicherry, India, he wanted to get as close to the animal as possible. He didn’t however ever expect to get the opportunity while cast away, alone, with the same tiger, in a life boat, adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
Yet this is exactly what happens in Life of Pi (trailer), the latest feature by Taiwanese film director Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”, “Lust, Caution”), based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel, after the ship Pi and his family were transporting their zoo animals to Canada on, sinks during a particularly fierce storm.
With all crew, plus his father, Gita (Tabu) his mother, and Ravi (Vibish Sivakumar) his brother, lost, Pi makes the startling discovery that the tiger, who goes by the off-beat name Richard Parker, had managed to conceal himself aboard the same life boat he escaped on. Now completely stranded, Pi can only hope rescuers will soon locate them.
As the weeks pass though, it becomes apparent that no one is looking for them, both Pi and the tiger, despite both being fearful and resentful of each other, instinctively come to realise that they must rely on each other for survival, especially as the food and water supplies on the life boat are diminishing, and they have no idea where they really are.
And it is here that viewers can decide whether they are on a journey of spiritual discovery, or witnessing a remarkable tale of against-all-odds survival. Whatever the story may be to an individual though, it is at all times a visual spectacle, and, for a rare change, the seamless melding of gripping storytelling with cinematic 3D technology.
While “Life of Pi” has its moments, and ending up on a life boat with a Bengal tiger is going to make for a few of those, it is otherwise a deliberately paced story, and even though the focus is on just one character, almost alone in the middle of the ocean at that, for extended periods, introspection never gets the better of drama.