Thursday 13 December 2012

Review: Life of Pi (spoiler-ish)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Life of Pi 3D poster

Life of Pi (3D)
120 mins / Dir. Ang Lee

Have you ever wondered what lessons you'd learn from being trapped on a lifeboat with limited emergency rations and a hungry Bengal tiger? Other than the lesson that a hungry Bengal tiger doesn't really want to become domesticated?

Other than the wordless, visually stunning trailer for Life of Pi, I had no idea what to expect from this film. Having not read the book it's based on, and having a general aversion to hype*1 anyway, all I could do was keep an open mind and wait to be impressed.

It didn't take long. A beautifully shot (if slightly ponderous) title sequence sets the tone for the following two hours as the middle-aged Pi recounts the story of his shipwreck, survival and ultimate rescue to a blocked author. The film is a combination of parable, metaphor and good old fashioned adventure, and the script itself is eager to remind you of this, blurring the lines between fantasy and memory, and reinforcing the point that all that matters is the tale.

And ultimately, that's where Life of Pi comes slightly unstuck. As a spectacle, it's positively jaw-dropping, but narratively it does start to sag a little towards the end. There are only so many fantastical set-pieces that can be laid out in a sequence before they escalate to the point where you realise this may not have actually happened. On top of that, the fact that Pi himself is narrating the plot dictates the main outcome. And if the story isn't about the plot, what's left? Spectacle and metaphor.

Not to put the words down too much, but I can't say enough how gorgeous this film looks, comparatively. The cinematography and visual effects combine to create a sense of delirium that will be imitated for years to come. Yet despite what I've just mentioned, that delirium could only come from this story. With the possible exception of Gerard Depardieu's cartoon-like cameo, all of the cast are convincing, engaging and throughly likeable. The only thing which threatened to pull me out was that strange transitioning between scenes, where the backdrop fades leaving a character superimposed over a scene. Very odd. If you're going to see this, I definitely recommend a cinema for best effect, although I noticed the 3D (although well rendered for live-action) darkens the film horrendously in places. For what's on offer, it'll probably look better in two dimensions.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed Life of Pi, I just wished it had left me with more, somehow. There's a little too much self-analysis and shrugging of shoulders for my liking, although that probably says more about me than the film itself. In the words of the eponymous hero: "It happened. Why should it have to mean anything?"

Or, to quote from another movie, "…What's in there?" "Only what you take with you."


*1 By which I mean the hype that surrounds worthy films, novels, plays etc. You know the kind of thing I mean. I have no problem with hype when it comes to zombies, robots or spaceships.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. I thought I would hate this movie!! but I have just pre-ordered it on 3D blu ray from amazon US (for the kids to see it ) this was after me slagging it off before hand. lol but after returning home from the screening 9 cineworld card nothing else on free night etc) it was a visual treat, the narrative made what would normally be something very uninteresting to me made it some how make the time pass like a trip through time, emotional yes, stunning visuals yes, subject matter foreign but fresh (also never read the book) but wow Ang lee delivers (still hold grudge against hulk!!!) nice movie good review Blackout ;-0