(On Cable TV, October 2013) As someone who read Yann Martel’s novel a while ago, Life of Pi held few surprises from a narrative point of view: The big-screen adaptation faithfully recreates the novel’s structure, its main plot beats (including the slap-back ending) and a good chunk of the story’s thematic concerns. As a result, I’m not overly bothered by the overdone spiritual content, or the trickster nature of the ending. It remains, at its most basic level, the story of a teenager’s survival ordeal as he’s stuck for most of a year on a lifeboat with a full-grown Bengal tiger. Still, as with the novel, I was far more interested with the detailed practicality of the protagonist’s lifeboat ordeal than with the multiple levels of interpretation, the spiritual content or the work’s boastful assertion that it will make audiences believe in God. Much of Life of Pi is immediately accessible as a succession of terrific imagery, you-are-there details of lifeboat survival and good old-fashion resilience in the face of terrible adversity. The special effects are terrific (the two storm sequences are simply amazing) and director Ang Lee’s skill in making the film both visceral and ethereal is something to behold. You’d think that the film would start to repeat itself given the limited setting, but Life of Pi remains engrossing for as long as its characters are drifting at sea. While I suspect that more spiritually-minded audience will get more out of the film, I’m sufficiently impressed that it can still manage to reach and fascinate audiences such as myself, purely as a survival thriller.