Movie in a Minute: Life of Pi

Written by Yann Martel in 2001, Life of Pi explores the journey of a young Indian boy named Piscine “Pi” Molitor Patel as he struggles to figure out his spiritual identity  as well as survive on a boat with three wild animals while lost at sea. As the son of a zookeeper, Pi gains skills from his father, and he later realizes these skills helped him more than he could imagine, especially when he must learn to tame a wild animal, an adult bengal tiger he names Richard Parker.

Just after the lights dim, the screen pans out to reveal a middle aged man and another younger man sitting on a park bench. The younger man tells him that he doesn’t believe in God and that another man said he had a story that could make him believe. It is then that the older man confirms all suspicions; he is Pi. After inviting the younger man over for lunch, Pi begins telling his story, beginning with how he received his name and then introducing Richard Parker for the first time. The man looks on, intrigued, as Pi solemnly recants the night of the shipwreck that killed his family and sent him out to sea with only an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a bengal tiger for company.

Pi then continues to tell the stranger about his 227 days at sea. He tells him about the events that left him and Richard Parker as the only ones left on the boat, the struggle for food and water, and finally, the “magical” island that saved his life. Not only that, but the movie also touches lightly on Pi’s internal struggles as a vegetarian who must kill animals to keep himself and the tiger alive.

When it seems like Pi has finished with his story, the man turns to him with a skeptical demeanor. “That’s quite a story,” he says with a disbelieving face. “But what does that have to do with me not believing in God?”.  Pi smiles lightly and offers to tell him the same story that he told the coastline officers who didn’t believe his story. He tells the story of four people who were in a shipwreck and lost at sea: a cook, a sailor, Pi, and his mother. After telling this story, he asks the man which version of the story he prefers. The man says, “well the one with the tiger of course”. Pi responds by saying, “and so it is with God” and suddenly everything makes sense to the younger man.

Overall, while I think it was a great book, the movie is just as spectacular. Having heard that the graphics were of the same standards as Avatar, I’m inclined to agree. The film moved quickly enough to set a good pace, but its incredible clarity kept my attention when boat life got a little stale. And, while there was never a definite climactic scene, the building action and continuous conflict made it a movie worth watching again.