Life of Pi (PG)

Directed by Ang Lee
On general release from 20th December 2012

Reviewed by Redskye

I was reminded of slumdog millionaire for various reasons and not just because the film is set in India but firstly because it focuses upon a child growing up and secondly I had no idea what journey I was to be taken on or where I would arrive before the end credits rolled. I have to say I was expecting to see at some point in the film a scene with a giant tiger and miniature boy due to various promotional pictures I had seen.

An appropriate amount of screen time is given at the beginning to establishing the central character Pi Patel, a middle aged man tells his childhood story in flash back to an interested English story writer. We’re introduced to a young Pi growing up from 12 to 16 with an inquiring mind who moves from ridicule to respect amongst his class mates. Out of school he studies four religions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Jewish Kabala they all inform the young Pi’s view of the world and colour his story, there’s a constant play off between spiritual and material concepts. Pi’s parents own a Zoo and this is how he and the tiger first meet. While he is granted plenty of freedom of thought by his parents, particularly his mother his father is more restrained. It is his father who decides one day that Pi must be taught a harsh lesson, despite his mothers pleas not to, in regard to the tiger curiously named Richard Parker, who Pi attempts to feed by hand. I wondered how the tiger was able to pull a goat through the cage bars with no blood to show for it.

The parents decide to emigrate to Canada taking their crated up animals with them so they can sell them, however their ship sinks in an ocean storm. Pi now orphaned manages to get himself aboard a lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, orang-utan, rat and the tiger, "Welcome to Pi’s Ark" as he refers to the lifeboat. The interaction over what is suggested as months stranded at sea between Pi and the tiger is the central theme of the film, with both ultimately dependent upon one another with Pi catching fish and feeding the tiger. The interplay between both challenges us to consider our attitudes towards animals and nature.

At times there’s a serene feel to the film but there is also a philosophical angle as well, the floating island full of meerkats was a highlight for me and a very surreal one at that. After the lifeboat is flooded there was an inevitable scene, namely the tiger on the lap shot and it happened just as I was expecting.

Perhaps I was expecting a different or even more interesting ending and after taking its time the film suddenly left me high and dry. A film such as this demands you watch it again and it's one of those films to ponder upon and discuss with other film goers.

With regard to the 3D filming in my opinion the significant reduction in screen brightness wasn’t worth surrendering for what was mediocre use of the 3D visualisation, at times I took my glasses off preferring brightness over 3D, however it’s still a fine feast for the eyes. Despite the fact that Life of Pi was mastered in a new sound format called “Dolby Atmos” with 7.1 channels I have to say that neither I nor a friend heard any side or rear surround channel effects at all. This was also the case when I saw Avatar 3D at FACT recently, perhaps daytime concession showings don’t get surround sound at FACT. All in all 'Life of Pi' was a pleasant filmic journey both visually and story wise.

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