It’s easy to describe the plot of “Life of Pi”: a young man, Pi (Suraj Sharma), survives on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with only the company of a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The film can be easily mocked because most of it takes place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there are surreal sequences of glowing blue lights reflecting in the water, there is a carnivorous island that has no inhabitants other than thousands of meerkats. Though easily mocked, it is these mystical characteristics that make the film powerful. It is a story of beautiful images and dreamlike visions. It is a story full of things we've never seen before. It is a story that examines spirituality while exploring the magic of childhood trust and dreams. From the beginning, the reason and logic of adulthood conflicts with the curious and unbiased perspective of the child through the relationship between Pi and his father (Adil Hussain) and their disagreements about religion and faith.
Pi is alone for most of the film—his only interaction being with a tiger—as he tries to survive as a castaway, but Sharma does a splendid job portraying what it would like to be alone for so long. Though there is nearly no human interaction for about the last hour and a half of the film, Sharma combines wise survival instincts with boyish hope and innocence to create a character that can keep you captivated and engaged with solely the way he holds himself, the way he clings to the rail of the boat, the way he lounges on his makeshift raft, the way he stares at the regal and terrifying tiger. Sharma can portray a boy’s will to survive, a boy’s capacity for love and trust —and it’s this ability to constantly remind us that Pi is a boy that allow the film to be truly captivating.
This is a story that combines reason and faith. It combines being old with being young. It combines wise, instinctual caution with the child’s desire to befriend, to accept. It is a story that will make you question what is real and what is magic and whether the two can be one. It asks whether the truth is the story that happened, or the story that is plausible. It makes you wonder whether magic doesn't exist solely because we refuse to believe in it.