Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel’s enjoyed life at his family’s zoo in India – but when he turned sixteen, financial worries saw his father turning his sights to a new life in Canada. With the zoo sold, the Patel family and their remaining animals began a long voyage across the ocean, only for the ship to run into trouble en route. Stranded in a lifeboat with only wild animals for a dubious and dangerous kind of company, Pi can only do his best to survive and await rescue.
Most of the time, I review films that I hate – simply because it’s fun to rant about them. But to provide balance, and prove that I don’t hate all films, I shall interject with occasional reviews of those I enjoyed. As it turns out, Life of Pi is one such film.
Having read about a third of the book at the point of watching the film, I knew how Life of Pi began, and that much of it was about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, but I had no idea how it would end. The film starts with the older Pi relating his childhood to a visiting writer, and whilst some of the details differ from those of the book (as they invariably do), I was surprised to find that, for once, I didn’t mind. In fact, if anything, the changes were just what a book to film conversion to be, streamlining the plot without losing any of the essential details or characterisation.
We venture into new territory (for me) with the sinking of the ship leaving Pi on a lifeboat with a selection of CG animals. It’s like a bloodier version of Pokemon, which ends with only the tiger Richard Parker surviving. Richard Parker is wild, vicious and the last companion you’d want when stranded on the open water, but it’s the interplay between him and Pi that drives the bulk of the film. He may only be a CG tiger, but you find yourself rooting for Richard Parker as much as for Pi. And let’s face it, who can’t help but love such a cute face?
Visually, Life of Pi is a superb piece of work – not just because of the tremendous work that has gone into animating the animals, but thanks to the settings as well. From an island filled with meerkats to an overhead shot of an amazingly still ocean, the film is packed with memorable visual set pieces.
Overall, then, Life of Pi is most definitely a film that is worth watching. Yes, parts of it are a little unbelievable, but in the end you come away not caring about that; aside from the fact that Pi has every right to have hallucinated at least part of his experiences, the film simply sweeps you along for the ride. And what an enjoyable ride it is.