Life of Pi is about many things, but first and foremost it is about storytelling, so it is fitting that its protagonist narrates his own story—first, as an adult (played by Irrfan Khan) recounting his adventures to a writer he has just met (Rafe Spall), and then in the voice of his younger self.
Newcomer Suraj Sharma captures and commands the screen as a young man who has never fit in with his peers. His family doesn’t understand his boundless curiosity about life, although they have stirred much of it by giving him a provocatively unusual name (Piscine—or Pi for short) and raising him in the midst of an exotic zoo in Pondicherry, India. Circumstance, or fate, sees him shipwrecked on a sailboat with four of those animals, although only one survives: a 450-pound Bengal tiger quixotically named Richard Parker.
The work of an army of CGI artists has negated the old adage that seeing is believing. Even though our rational mind may tell us that Richard Parker is not a real tiger, our moviegoing consciousness says otherwise rather forcefully. Life of Pi offers a phantasmagoria, lulling us into a kind of dream-state where reality and imagination blur in the most beguiling way.
Please don’t wait to watch this at home: find the best theater near you, don those 3-D glasses, and prepare to be taken on a magic carpet ride.