The film opens in Pondichery, India, where a boy named Piscine (nicknamed “Pi”) lives in a zoo that his father runs. After the zoo loses its state funding and eventually closes, Pi’s father decides to move the family to Canada, packing even the animals onto a cargo ship and setting off across the Pacific. Not long after passing Indonesia, the small ship comes into a spectacular storm and after a masterfully shot scene of disaster, Pi is the sole survivor of ship. He drifts in a lifeboat alone, kept company only by a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and the zoo’s powerful and beautiful Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker through a clerical error.
After only a couple of days at sea, the hyena has eaten the other two animals, and then Richard Parker kills the hyena. This leaves Pi alone in the lifeboat with the tiger for 227 days at sea. With flash-forwards to present day Montreal, the film tells Pi’s adventure with strong allegorical and metaphorical influences. Pi’s journey is one of inspiration led by self-reflection. He finds a little bit of himself in Richard Parker, and so abandoned in a lifeboat together Pi slowly trains the tiger and learns to live alongside the beautiful beast.
While originally thought to be an ‘un-filmable’ novel, Ang Lee and his cast and crew have crafted a beautiful piece of work with Life of Pi. The acting is successful and emotive, and the soundtrack has been eloquently assembled by Golden Globe winner Mychael Danna. With emphasis on visual spectacle, Life of Pi is surprisingly charming and another wonderful feature by filmmaker Ang Lee.