5) Life of Pi
Jaws gave us a story about a town terrorized by a man-eating shark and the three individuals who went on an expedition to kill the animal. I bet sixteen-year-old Piscine “Pi” Patel would have been amused by that little yarn. See, he and his family were aboard a Canada-bound freighter ship out of India when a storm caused the ship to capsize, leaving Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) alone on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, except he wasn’t really alone. He was accompanied by a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450 pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. But yeah, you’re the one who needed a bigger boat, Brody.
Life of Pi documents the months that Pi spent drifting in the ocean and the common challenges one faces when sharing a boat with a tiger. It’s a technical marvel that the virtual tiger looked so real, but the images that have stuck me the most are that of the ocean. The water was at times strikingly beautiful, offering colors you wouldn’t find anywhere else and a tranquility unheard of on land. At other times the sea looked like the most frightening place on the planet.
There is one image in particular that terrified me: the freighter is completely submerged and slowly descending, all of its lights are still shining (though you know they will soon short out), Pi is underwater watching the ship sink, sharks are swimming mere yards from his feet, the camera is under the ocean’s surface which means water fills the entire frame, and we all of the sudden realize how vast the ocean is and how unnatural it is for Pi to be in the middle of it.
Directed by Ang Lee and filmed in 3D, Life of Pi offers an experience meant for a larger-than-life screen. Sure it looks good at home, but this movie was made to look great. The story itself has a weak framing structure, and the central metaphor is handled with all the subtlety of a jackhammer, but Pi’s tale is still a touching one that conveys the power of perseverance, companionship and self-reliance. It’s also damn pretty. Have I mentioned that?