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Life of Pi Movie Review

In this review of the movie Life of Pi, I’d like to revisit unforgettable scenes and idealism from the film. Yes, the story is full of idealism from the original novel it was derived from, which is Yann Martel’s 2001 fantasy adventure book and now, in the Academy Award nominee for best picture 2013 film version. Here are some of those moments:

Lifeboat with a Tiger

life of pi movie reviewThis is of course where the main plot revolves around. Pi or Piscine Molitor Patel was washed away into the vast ocean after surviving the sunken Japanese cargo vessel Tsimtsum. His parents and older brother were dead along with the entire crew of the ship as well as the Patel family’s zoo animals. They used to run a zoo in Puducherry, once a French occupied territory in India. France returned the state back to India and the Patel family was one of the first to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, the zoo land belongs to the government and so they renounced the Patel family ownership of it. The Patels decided to sail away to America and sell the animals to start anew in a foreign land after the zoo property was ceased by their local state.

Pi was saved by the bell. His adventurous attitude brought him up on the ship’s deck to view lighting as it madly displayed its power. Water subdued the ship too fast that everyone sleeping had no time to escape. The lifeboat was released too early with only Pi aboard along with some animals. Problem is, Richard Parker, a Bengal Tiger whose original name “Thirsty” was mistakenly exchanged for a man’s name was surprisingly aboard the boat too. The tiger had always been called thus afterwards. There were also other animals; a hyena, zebra, and later on an orangutan. The hyena killed both the zebra and the monkey (who sailed towards the boat floating on a pile of banana fruits) but it was killed by Richard Parker afterwards. Only the tiger and Pi remained on the boat.

3 Religions

Due to his curiosity, Pi discovered two other religions besides his native land’s Hinduism. These were Christianity and Islam, which he had both embraced. Throughout the film, he had switched praying from one God to another such as thanking Vishnu for leading him to Christ and then taking the form of a fish to save both him and the hungry tiger aboard the boat. He was also amazed by God’s grace and love by sending His own son to die and pay the penalty of our sins and was in awe of Christianity. He had also identified himself as a Muslim on the other hand due to the peace that the religion brings during prayer at specific times throughout the day. It was also mentioned in the film that he practiced Jewish traditions too.

McGyver Style

Amazing how Pi built a makeshift raft from wood planks of the boat just by reading a survival kit he found from the boat’s hidden compartment. His first raft was destroyed by a giant whale swimming upwards from deep beneath the water. Pi had even added a shade into his raft, which also functions as a sail from the boat’s tent cover. Using the survival kit’s pages, he had also filled out an entire diary of experiences at sea day by day until his pencil no longer had lead. This booklet was eventually washed away by strong storm winds the way his messages were sent sailing through sealed, empty food cans. But no help came.

Enchanting and Alluring

The closest to being rescued was the presence of a ship which missed them despite flare shots sent up in the air. They also came across an enchanted island which allured them. It was filled with mangrove trees with roots all over the island. There was also a refreshing pond in the middle amidst the company of meerkats. But the place was full of bones with even a man’s tooth found inside a fruit. Pi discovered that the island is sort of cannibalistic so he left without leaving behind the tiger that he can easily call upon through a whistle. The island’s shape appeared to be like that of a dead man lying down.

Floating all over the ocean, it was also enchanting and alluring. At one point, both boy and tiger were already hallucinating probably due to fatigue, thirst, starvation, and deprivation of sleep. Still on enchanting scenes of the sea, there were various sea animals all around including jelly fish glowing in the dark, dolphins jumping up and down, and fishes caught which had taught Pi to eat raw fish, ala sashimi. Hindus normally don’t eat meat and aboard the boat earlier on the film, his family found a companion with a Buddhist sailor who doesn’t partake of meat too. He taught them how to eat rice with gravy.

The whole adventure was almost unbelievable especially for investigators who wanted to know what happened to the ship. Pi didn’t know why it sunk but he remembered the entire ordeal over the sea. Bananas don’t float and there was no enchanted island for the Japanese men who debriefed Pi so he made a more believable version. He simply summed it all up from the moment that all animals were killed and only the tiger remained. The hyena symbolized the ship’s cook, who killed the zebra (the young Buddhist sailor), and then the mother orangutan (supposedly Pi’s mom) but was soon devoured by the tiger (Pi). He never read the report but the writer did when Pi allowed him have a look of it. The two Japanese men actually used the original unbelievable version of the story for their report.

Pi Equals 3.14…

Smart as he always was, Pi devised a way to make everyone stop teasing him with “pissing” due to his name Piscine. It was actually derived from a French pool his dad found enlightenment from. It was in the same pool where he had learned how to swim through his uncle who can effectively swim due to his unique physique; he had a huge torso and slender legs.

Going back to Pi, he had introduced himself voluntarily in front of the class during school opening. No one seriously believed him and still called him Pissing Patel until he wrote the entire mathematical “Pi” on a board during the last class for the day, which was geometry. Although we normally represent Pi simply as 3.14, the complete numerical value is actually long. It occupied almost three black boards when Pi wrote it.

Love Story

It was the same wit which earned him the interest of a love interest. Substituting as a drum player for young girls practicing in a religious dance, he asked what a specific dance movement meant for one of the girls since she was the only one who had demonstrated it. It looked like two half open palms clasped together, resembling a flower. She said it was the lotus which symbolized several things in the Hindu religion. Since then, the two had become close but he didn’t even said goodbye when they left to sail. He eventually married in Canada years after the whole boat drama. He landed on a Mexican beach with Richard Parker, then saved by locals, and then debriefed by Japanese investigators due to an insurance claim.

Understanding Animals

Richard Parker too didn’t even said goodbye after walking ahead of a weak Pi at the Mexican shores mentioned above. The tiger paused for a moment; Pi was hoping it would look back at him, but never did and disappeared into the thick bushes to vanish from Pi forever. But Pi still believed that animals have souls as Hindus teach this despite his dad’s protestations due to an experience earlier in life when he was ill and was never healed by healers but got well through science via medicines and hospitals. He disagreed with his father’s notions saying that your gaze will only bounce back when looking at animal’s eyes. For Pi, there was more than a reflection of his face in the animal’s eye. He was certain that there is something there.

But Pi was still careful in the presence of Richard Parker because he almost lost a limb when he was young and they were still at the zoo. He once attempted to feed the Bengal tiger meat from his own hands. His father swiftly saved him and showed both him and his brother a lesson they will never forget. A live goat was tied between narrow bars keeping Richard Parker. The tiger slowly walked towards his prey and pulled the goat inside to fit between the bars.

The same tiger, when with him on the boat showed territorial claim. Pi tried to subdue him by training based on what he had learned from the survival kit so he could have a share of the boat when his raft was eventually washed away. One, to associate sea waves’ movement with a whistle and in turn use the whistle to establish his authority over the animal. It was hilarious that when Pi peed at the middle section of the boat to create a division which would separate their assigned areas at the boat, the tiger peed back to his face. He was finally able to exercise power over the animal through food. Fishes abound on the sea including a swarm of flying fish and tunas swimming after them. These he used to bribe the animal with a stick to command him towards its designated spot.


Both book and movie have similarities with the 2000 hit film Castaway because of the adventure on sea except that a majority of events took place on a life boat in Life of Pi instead of a deserted island. Both showed sea adventures and are similarly highly awarded with good reviews. Life of Pi is nominated in three categories for Golden Globe including Best Picture – Drama and Best Director as well as 11 for the Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Ang Lee, the same director who brought Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had transformed what was seemingly impossible to convert from book to film in Life of Pi.

Quotable Quotes

Adult Pi: Faith is a house with many rooms. 
Writer: But no room for doubt? 
Adult Pi: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful; it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith.

Adult Pi: I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye. 

Pi: Above all: don't lose hope. 

More about the film here:

Cast and Characters

Suraj Sharma as 16 years old Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel
Irrfan Khan as adult Pi (a familiar face due to several TV shows and guestings)
Ayush Tandon as 13 years old Pi
Gautam Belur as 5 years old Pi
Tabu as Pi's mother Gita Patel
Adil Hussain as Pi's father Santosh Patel
Vibish Sivakumar as Pi's 18 years old older brother Ravi Patel
Mohamed Abbas Khaleeli as 15 years old Ravi
Ayan Khan as 7 years old Ravi
Shravanthi Sainath as Pi's teenage girlfriend Anandi
Andrea Di Stefano as the Priest
Gérard Depardieu as the Cook on the ship
Po-Chieh Wang as the Taiwanese Sailor
Rafe Spall as the Writer who interviewed Pi throughout portions of the film

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Official Trailer

There you have it, a long narrative review of the movie Life of Pi which I hoped you enjoyed reading!

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