Ang Lee's latest is his best since his Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" that interlocks the magical and mystical in realizing Yann Martel's 2001 novella.
Life of Pi stars Ayush Tandon, Suraj Sharma, and Irrfan Khan "Slumdog Millionaire) and is shot in striking 3D as Lee's captivation with the popular format at least rivals how Martin Scorsese approached its demands through a winning Hugo. There may not be as consistent of an emotional resonance here even if the digital technology especially involving a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker really reinforces its motifs and ideologies.
The luminous, artistic filmmaking helps provide the portal to nature in its placid and turbulent forms as young Piscine Molitor Patel (Tandon) from a French swimming pool eponymously abbreviates it when scorned at school in Pondicherry, India.
Pi has a strong theological side in addition to a creative one, not only influenced deeply by Krishna being a Hindu, but by Islam and Christianity. This goes against his secular, more science minded parents, especially his zookeeper father who doesn't like his using a prayer mat five times a day or often getting together with a priest.
Pi is taught an important lesson about the aforementioned Richard Parker by his father in a family zoo especially after seeing his son attempting to feed him. Their divergent views of this beautiful predator come into play as screenwriter David Magee (Finding Neverland) put the maturing teen-aged Pi (Sharma) in a whirlwind when his father has the family departing from Indian to start anew in Winnipeg, Canada.
Many visual marvels besides a kind of Federal Phoenix in Richard Parker include a dimensionally powerful high seas, as well as a humpback whale, flying fish and jellyfish. Through Pi's arduous over half-year journey where a hyena, orangutan, and zebra and family are lost after boarding a Japanese cargo vessel an understanding of a bigger picture and coping with loss filled with purpose from an eye of a glorious tiger like Richard Parker.
It's interesting to contrast this dazzling artistry to the likes of 127 Hours where a kind of peace must be made through a new, vigilant kind of experience that prepares what the adult Canadian Pi (finally Khan) divulges to a reporter. The mystery is there for someone who ended up in Mexico as well as those who first tried to catch wind of this transformative event. Cineastes may not need to be caught in the metaphysical aura of Life of Pi but Lee instructively finds the sublime to cast the befuddled and the curious out of the darkness.