What would you do if you found yourself orphaned, alone and in the middle of the ocean? Drown, surrender, pray? Now imagine you had company in the form of a dangerous predator.
We join the story of Piscine Molitor Patel in adulthood. Piscine, known as Pi (played by Irfan Khan) is an Indian living in Canada. One day, a young novelist comes to his door after being referred by a friend of his. Named after a swimming pool by his parents, Piscine came by his nickname after exhaustive chiding of his given name by classmates in school. His father ran a local zoo and Pi took an intense, and as far as his father was concerned, unhealthy, interest in the zoo's sole tiger. Named Richard Parker as the result of a clerical error, the tiger is fed a live goat while Pi bears witness in an effort by his father to instill an appropriate amount of fear. Though raised as a Hindu, Pi (played as an adolescent by Ayush Tandon) discovers Christianity as the result of a dare from his older brother and, by sheer chance, discovers Islam sometime after. As an adult, he refers to himself as a Catholic Hindu. At 16, Pi's father decides to close the zoo, sell the animals and move the family to Canada. This is a crushing development in the life of our main character as he has just fallen in love for the first time. The family and the animals make their journey west on a Japanese freighter. Woken by a severe storm, Pi goes to the top deck to marvel at the magnitude of the waves, wind, and rain. It is that extremely questionable decision which lands him in a lifeboat while his family and the rest of the crew sink with the ship. All this would make his chances of survival slim enough, but for better or worse, he's not alone in the boat. With him is Richard Parker the tiger, an orangutan he refers to as Orange Juice a zebra and a hyena.
This is an incredible movie. Some would say elements of the story are too fantastic to be believable but, with the first film in The Hobbit trilogy and the alleged final chapter in the Twilight saga currently in theaters, those objections seem hollow, to say the least. The struggle between man and beast and the eventual development of a symbiotic relationship between the two make for an extremely gripping tale. It's made even more so by the trials and tribulations they both encounter in their fight to survive. I thoroughly enjoyed Life of Pi, and wish I'd seen it sooner.