Review: Life of Pi

“I have a story that will make you believe in God.”

My own personal religious beliefs are a bit on the complicated side and are just that: personal. Still, I can say that after seeing this movie, my beliefs have not changed one bit. So there is that.

My first thought was how hard it was to believe in the character of Pi. Named after a French swimming pool and raised in a zoo, he’s the perfect example of ‘overly quirky’. With a full name that sounds like ‘pissing’ he reinvents himself by memorizing hundreds of digits of pi. He makes a habit of collecting religions (he’s raised Hindu but converts to adds Christianity and Islam at the very least). He likes going out in the thunderstorms (which I can relate to). Individually, I could see any of these traits, but put it all together and it’s a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand though, this definitely wasn’t a bad movie. It had quite a few rather impressive visuals (particularly the ocean shots when it was completely smooth, the bioluminescence and the whale, and the meerkat island). In addition, the survival and isolationist aspects were surprisingly believable. I really could see the eponymous Pi slowly losing it as the days went by with nothing but a tiger to keep him company.

Unfortunately though, that same buy-in made the movie drag quite a bit at times. There’s only so much you can do with a single (human) character marooned at sea. There are storms and there’s the tiger… and that’s about it. It’s interesting for a while, but well before his inevitable return to civilization.

During the beginning of the end of the movie, I was prepared to rate this movie relatively low in my own personal rankings. But then there was the last few minutes, the part that will supposedly “make you believe in God”. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you may want to skip the next paragraph.

Essentially, at the end, there are two people from the company who’s boat sank from under Pi. They ask him to tell his story, but they don’t believe it. So he tells them another story, where there were originally four survivors, two murders, and a touch of cannibalism. In the end though, Pi asks them (and the man he was telling the story to) which they would choose to believe and both choose the more fantastical, less grim, and less believable story, the one with the tiger.

It’s something that really did make me think: given a less believable but more positive story versus a more believable but grimmer story, which will the average person choose? In the film, Pi implies that’s the choice that makes people believe in God. While I haven’t gone quite that far, it definitely made me think. So that’s something at least.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I haven’t read the book and I doubt that I ever will, but the film was worth my time which is all that I really ask. It was good enough–thought provoking enough at least–to put it in my top ten, just below Brave but above Skyfall. If you have to choose, I’d still say go see Rise of the Guardians), but if you’ve already seen that one, you could do worse than Life of Pi.