Life Of Pi REVIEW

Life Of Pi DVD review.

Life Of Pi

Really, we should have given this 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058 stars.


Release Date: 29 April 2013
PG | 127 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£28.99 (Blu-ray)/£32.99 (3D Blu-ray)
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall

Be in no doubt: Life Of Pi is a remarkable film. It’s also a flawed film, although those flaws perhaps make it even more interesting.

A movie that won Ang Lee a Best Director statuette from the Oscars chaps, it’s primarily a visual treat – and one that only just falls inside SFX’s remit (you can thank a “carnivorous island” for that).

The titular Pi is a young Indian (“Pi” being the abbreviation he chose when his fellow schoolmates mocked his full name, Piscine – his parents named him after a Paris swimming pool!) His family own a zoo, whose inhabitants include an adult Bengal tiger which – following an administrative mix-up – goes by the name of Richard Parker. When said family choose to emigrate from India to Canada, their ship is wrecked in a storm, and only Pi and a few of the animals manage to escape in a lifeboat.

You will probably know that one of these animals is that bloody great tiger – but what will still astound you when you see it is what an outstanding CGI creation it is, a truly remarkable piece of work that shouts to the world: “This is what cinema can do nowadays – nothing is beyond it; let’s have no more debate about what the greatest artform is.” Cinema can now show anything, no matter how fantastical, and make it look real.
Imagery is certainly what Life Of Pi does best – witness the scene where flying fish beleaguer the boat, or the sequence where Pi pitches up on an island populated by thousands of meerkats, or the hallucinatory fever brought on by too many days at sea. Watch in 3D and you’re in for an especial treat.

But what of the script? Well, Yann Martel’s 2001 novel managed to attract a wide range of readers, both secular and religious (Barack Obama told the author that it was “elegant proof of God”), and the film is faithful to its essence. There are a few longueurs, as the pair remain lost at sea for a good long time, and its tale of survival is not the stuff of nail-biting drama because of the unrealness of the situation.

Metaphysical musing is at the core of this story. It says that whatever any individual believes in becomes, in a sense, “true”, because they want it to be true – it becomes their religion. But this is not proof, elegant or otherwise. Pi takes the fact that he survives his ordeal as proof of a deity (this isn’t spoiling anything: the older Pi narrates the tale to a writer – played by Rafe Spall) while ignoring the fact that he had to go through the whole damned ordeal in the first place! And he nearly got eaten by a massive tiger. That’s what you call a serious case of confirmation bias.

The film takes care not to alienate viewers of either a religious or non-religious bent; but it’s a slippery customer, and if its message is that you don’t need evidence to assert your claims, then that’s regrettable. What’s the point of science classes if someone comes along and says, “You know what, all that empirical evidence stuff is bunkum: here’s what I believe to be the case…” and then spins some fantastical yarn that’s purported to be just as valid.

You could also question other aspects of the film. As is the case with most previous Ang Lee films – the over-earnest Hulk, the hard-to-warm-to Lust, Caution, the pensive Sense And Sensibility – there’s a sense of detachment, a feeling that there’s not much for you to cling on to emotionally. You sometimes want to yell, “What is this all about?!” A kookier story has rarely been told this side of Noah’s Ark, and the viewer may sometimes feel as adrift as young Pi does, searching for a way in to a weird parable dripping with metaphor. If you can find it in yourself to love a tiger and feel as much for it as you would, say, a dog, it may help considerably.

Life Of Pi is worth seeing, though. It’s not perfect – some may even find it a tad boring – and it’s never likely to trouble any future SFX Best Films poll (if only because it barely qualifies as fantasy or science fiction) (Shush! – Reviews Ed) If you’re in search of a film that’s something a little different, though, they don’t come much more different than this.

Extras:

After watching the film you’ll be dying to see some behind-the-scenes stuff. Thank the god of special features, then.

On the Blu-ray (rated), “A Filmmaker’s Epic Journey” (61 minutes) follows the film’s four-year journey from scripting to post-production, while “A Remarkable Vision” (19 minutes) concentrates on the visual effects and “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” (eight minutes) is a fascinating look at exactly how that astounding tiger came to be. You also get stills and storyboards – and (via BD Live) another 20-minute doc on storytelling.

The Blu-ray 3D adds deleted scenes (12 minutes), two visual effects progressions (14 minutes), and the trailer. The DVD version is bare bones, with just the film and a digital copy.

Russell Lewin

For an alternate perspective, read our Life Of Pi review from the theatrical release.
Read more of our DVD reviews.

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