In Life of Pi, based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel by Yann Martel, a teenager and a Bengal tiger spend 227 days on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Like the book, the film is divided into three segments.
In the first segment, we are introduced to the central character, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma). Growing up in Pondicherry, the French part of India, Pi enjoyed an idyllic life as the child of a zookeeper (Adil Hussain). An inquisitive and adventurous child, Pi dabbled in different faiths—Hinduism, Christianity, Islam—and played with the wild animals in his father’s zoo. Economic issues force the Patel family and their zoo animals to leave India and set sail for Canada. The Japanese freighter encounters rough seas and sinks near the Marinas Trench. The only survivors are Pi and four animals: a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger.
During the second segment of the film, we watch as three of the animals are devoured by the tiger and Pi takes refuge in an improvised raft which is tethered to the lifeboat. To survive, Pi must forge an uneasy alliance with the Bengal tiger, aka Richard Parker. The special effects used to create Richard Parker are simply amazing. And director Ang Lee does not stop there. The scenes involving the flying fish and a whale exploding skyward from the ocean are equally impressive.
I found the film’s third segment anticlimactic. While Pi’s survival was never in question—he is the narrator of the film—there was no need to provide an “alternative” narrative from a hospital bed in Mexico. More film time could have been devoted to the Patel zoo, Pi’s budding romance in India or life in modern-day Canada.