There are only so many filmmakers fearless or foolhardy enough to tackle a challenging novel, like Yann Martel's Life of Pi, but adaptation specialist Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) was well positioned to take it on. As a structuring device, he uses an interview between a journalist (Rafe Spall) and Pi Patel (The Namesake's Irrfan Khan), a Montreal immigrant with an unusual back story. As he tells the writer, his parents oversaw a zoo in French-Indian Pondicherry, and he found himself drawn to the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker--the name resulted from a clerical error--but... his father (Adil Hussain) warned him to stay away. On his own, Pi became entranced by Islam, Hinduism, and Catholicism, which comes in handy when his family relocates to Canada by freighter and a brutal storm--as believably horrific as anything in Titanic--leaves Pi (now played by Suraj Sharma) stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and the tiger. Soon, it's just Richard and Pi struggling against the elements for 227 days, and since he doesn't want to end up as cat food, he spends most of his time in a makeshift raft attached to the boat. It's giving nothing away to say that he makes it out alive, but the point of the journey remains more enigmatic, since fate tests Pi's faith at every turn. Whether that makes this visually spectacular film a religious allegory or not, Richard (a marvel of CGI technology) remains the biggest mystery of all. --Kathleen C. Fennessy [show more]
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