Review by Luke Whitmire
Ang Lee, that great chameleon among contemporary directors, confects a visual marvel about a shipwrecked teenage boy stranded with a Bengal tiger on a life boat. Lee weaves a compelling, enchanting fable from Yann Martel’s best-selling novel of the same title published in 2001 that sold over 7 million copies. Like James Cameron’s venerable 3D revolution of Avatar,  Pi will be veneered as the best 3D film that changed the paradigm narratively and tonally.
Going from one genre to the next, from style to style, the prolific,  intelligent and extremely versatile Ang Lee has devised a family spectacle that has realistic and lyrical touches. Lee as a sensitive and conscientious director,   orchestrates a beautiful coming of age fable, a spiritual meditation on the co-existence of humans vs. animals, and perhaps most compelling (at least to me), is the self-reflexive nature of faith. Is God the father of us all? Is He the moral law giver to our existence? In God, do we find meaning and purpose? Is He our life force?

Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi


“Faith is the touching of a mystery. It is to perceive another dimension to absolutely everything in the world. In faith the mysterious meaning of life comes through. . . . To speak in the simplest possible terms: faith sees, knows, senses the presence of God in the world,” writes Alexander Schmemann, a Russian Orthodox priest. Faith is the core essence of this film, and it permeates the very nature of the protagonist, Piscine Molitor Patel (Ayush Tandon). Faith becomes a survival tool and a source of courage and persistence for a young heart and soul. Our protagonist looses everything only to gain even more on an intense, metaphysical journey at sea.

Not very often do you see a mainstream Hollywood film that accentuates the cataclysmic power of the Christian, Hindu and Jewish faith. Pi delves deep inside all three sacred doctrines to remind us of the monumental believers, the passionate change-agents that became enveloped by fear, loss and suffering, but were able to overcome their destitution with God’s unfailing, majestic love and compassion. With their faith and trust in God, they were able to walk in the dark unknown without fear. Lee intwines these doctrines with deftness, and he allows us to see the different dimensions of faith.
Piscine Molitor Patel, named after a French swimming pool, is the young son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India. When his name leads him to become an object of ridicule at school, he shortens it to Pi.
Pi is a very creative and spiritual person, which comes to a surprise to his secular parents who put their faith in the supremacy of reason and science. Pi  has a strong connection to the Hindu faith, comfortable with the idea of many Gods and Krishna being his hero. But he also has a veneer for Christianity and Islam. Even though his parents disapprove of the multi-faith belief, Pi continues to walk the path that encompasses a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of daily morality. He is convinced that God has a purpose for his life.
We see Pi trying to connect with a Bengal tiger in a family zoo. He believes that animals have souls and that humans and animals can have a deep connection, but his father angrily tells him that animals are wild beasts of prey who cannot be trusted. 
Pi’s father decides to leave India and move to Winnipeg, Canada. The family and some of the animals board a Japanese cargo ship. In a violent storm, the boat sinks and Pi is the only human survivor. Soon afterwards he is joined in a small lifeboat by a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and the Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The story of hope and faith builds beautifully when Pi and the tiger are the only ones left, stranded at sea. We see a teenage boy who has compassion for all creatures, and an unwavering faith and struggle that’s reminiscent of the great spiritual figures like Job, Moses and David of the Holy Bible. Pi is a young boy who learns in his dismal time of suffering to be anxious for nothing; but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. Due to this faith, Pi is molded and shaped into a monumental spiritual figure that transcends his former self. 
Bottom line:  Life of Pi is one of the most visually arresting films ever made. Cinematographer Peter Pau adds layers to Lee’s beautiful and accomplished rendering of the best-seller.This is by far the best 3D film ever produced by a high-caliber filmmaker, even better than James Cameron’s Avatar, which I absolutely love and adore still. Ang Lee gives us a spectacle in the third dimension with depth and substance, about the essence of our existence. Finally, a visual spectacle that connects with the audience on a human level.
* * * * *
5 out of 5 stars