I have never read the book and somehow came to the film knowing little about it except that it is about a boy stuck in a boat with a tiger.
And that is essentially what the main bulk of the Life of Pi consists of. But this is layered with adventure (in true Robinson Crusoe castaway fashion), excitement, humour, sadness and mystery.
And then there is the cinematography. The 3D effects are as usual pretty much pointless and a hindrance more than a benefit. But the dreamy seascapes, framing of shots, dissolves and layering of sky and sea and starry nights are stunningly beautiful. Majestic even. The look of the film combines with the magical realist style story wonderfully.
And the realisation of the tiger (and other animals, though they only briefly make an appearance) is simply excellent. So good it is easy to just take it for granted. Yet bar one or two scenes, the tiger (mostly CGI generated) and his interaction between main human character Pi is completely realistic and thrillingly so. Quite an achievement.
It is also testament to how engaging and good the film is that the bulk of the action really only consists of the teenage Pi and the tiger stuck for nearly a year on a small life boat (marooned there together following a mid pacific ship wreck).
And while there is magic realism at play, the tiger is very much a fierce deadly and hungry tiger. We are never led to believe that the tiger is not a dangerous man-eating beast that Pi has to keep his distance from. Yet the symbiotic relationship that forms between the two is completely believable, and of course the main point of the story.
It is in the modern-day story telling scenes that we get some elements of spiritual theory being espoused. But this is slight and almost hidden in the pure adventure story.
In fact Pi’s zealot multi-faith beliefs are amusing and charming and never over bearing. If anything the metaphors underlying the story are perhaps almost underplayed.
This is a big and wonderfully creative film both visually and in terms of the story and themes being explored. Yet on the other hand it is just a great adventure yarn.
And the conclusion……….. well just go and see it, it’s excellent.