Life of Pi is a powerful drama featuring a wonderful performance from Suraj Sharma and some of the best 3D and visual effects perhaps since Avatar. Ang Lee has yet another winner with a seemingly simple story that presents some semi-complex undertones.
Genre(s): Drama, Adventure, Fantasy
Fox | PG – 127 min. – $49.99 | March 12, 2013
Directed by: Ang Lee
Writer(s): Yann Martel (novel); David Magee (Screenplay)
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu
Theatrical Release Date: November 21, 2012
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Art Gallery, Storyboards, Theatrical Trailer, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 3
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: NA
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 4.25/5
Plot: The Life of Pi opens in present day Canada as a middle-aged Pi Patel (IRRFAN KHAN) and a novelist (RAFE SPALL) meet for lunch at Pi’s home. There, Pi tells an incredible story beginning at childhood as the kids often mocked him for his birth name Piscine Patel with classmates turning the first name into “Pissing”, later he adopted the nickname “Pi” and managed to memorize the entire mathematical value. Pi and his family – father Santosh, mother Gita and brother Ravi – live in Pondicherry, India and are caretakers of a zoo that houses a variety of animals including a majestic and dangerous bangle tiger named Richard Parker, whom Pi takes a great interest in, although his father warns him that the tiger is not his friend.
Meanwhile, a teenaged Pi (SURAJ SHARMA) is excelling in his studies and taken interest in a girl and while the pair spend some time together, his life is uprooted when the family experiences financial problems and must move to Winnipeg, Canada where his father has more job opportunities and the animals can be sold to various zoos in North America. So, the family takes the voyage on a freighter which includes a nasty cook (GERARD DEPARDIEU). Things go awry when, for some reason, and in the middle of the night, Pi goes to the deck during a furious storm and witnesses something going wrong as the waves overtakes the ship and it begins to go under. Despite his best efforts, the passenger area is already underwater and he is unable to get to his family. He manages to get on a life boat but when one of the panicking zebras jumps onboard which sends the boat down into the ocean.
After witnessing the massive sinking, Pi and the warned out zebra get another guest in the form of an orangutan. But they’re not out of danger when a hyena comes aboard causing mass panic and attacking the two other animals. Sometime later, and for some reason Pi never realized he was there, Richard Parker was underneath a tarp on the boat and thus begins the fearful relationship between the pair. Pi spends most of his time on a makeshift raft he had built while the tiger got the lifeboat to himself but eventually Pi, using guidance his father had taught him earlier, build the courage to train Parker so the two can co-exist on one boat as they ride out restlessness and oft choppy and violent waters.
As with The Hobbit, we know Pi’s outcome, that because he’s telling the story sometime in the future (about 20-30 years), but unlike Peter Jackson’s epic tale, Life of Pi manages to not only maintain my attention throughout its two hour running time but the tension is consistent despite knowing Pi will survive. Another plus, director Ang Lee keeps the story tight, limiting unnecessary scenes or sequences.
The acting is also impressive including the young Suraj Sharma who, when I watched the ‘making-of’ documentary, discovered he was more or less plucked out of obscurity at a school in India. Having never acted before, he presents a natural charisma not many professionals at his age possess. I also must give kudos to the older Pi played by Irrfan Khan whose career is much more extensive going back 25 years. But he too does a great job in what’s more or less thankless role of being the storyteller.
Overall, with some incredible visual effects and successful performances from Sharma and Khan, Life of Pi is an amazing journey of the human spirit and will to survive. I wasn’t as wowed by the film as some, but still feel its well worth viewing if only once as Ang Lee and company present some interesting views on religion not to mention an effective conclusion which does stay with you afterward.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.75/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover and the three discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case. Inside is the DVD/Digital Copy combo disc.
Disc 1 (3D BD):
Deleted Scenes (13:16; HD) – Here we get five scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut or were trimmed down. There’s nothing extraordinary here but are nice to view here.
VFX Progressions includes the “Tsimtsum Sinking” (12:40; HD), cutting between the Animation, Plate, Postvis and Final and creating/filming in “The Wave Tank” (2:10; HD).
Theatrical Trailer (2:12; HD)
Disc 2 (2D BD):
A Filmmaker’s Epic Journey (1:03:29; HD) is a four-part featurette/documentary following Ang Lee and his and the others’ 4 year journey into bringing Life of Pi from the book to the big screen. This is an in-depth ‘making-of’ taking the viewer through the process and each part is absolutely fascinating.
A Remarkable Vision (19:35; HD) covers the visual effects for the film. For those interested in the nuances of the film, this is another interesting featurette to watch.
Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright (8:35; HD) – This featurette focuses on the tiger training. The project used three real tigers plus the CG tiger and blending the two elements.
The rest of the disc includes a Gallery, some Storyboards and a Live Extras section.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Fox releases Life of Pi on Blu-ray presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio, although on the standard 2D version, there is one scene which is 1.33 full frame, it is a bit jarring but it only lasts a minute or so. In any case, this transfer looks absolutely fantastic with bright colors which especially pop off the screen during nighttime shots. The detail levels are also impressive and the clarity of the picture is pristine free of artifacting or pixilation.
The 3D Blu-ray meanwhile is also awesome to experience. Ang Lee’s vision really comes to fruition here with amazing depth in nearly every scene, even the more mellow sections, but really comes to life while Pi is at sea and you get various objects coming out of the screen from the whale to a school of fish. This is perhaps the best 3D presentation since Avatar.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The disc, on both the 2D and 3D versions, includes a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which is more than effective be it during the dialogue-driven scenes, and there are more than a few, to the moments that have more action on the ocean. There are times you can feel the roar of the tiger as well as the sinking of the cargo vessel, this is a lossless track that I was impressed with.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Overall, Life of Pi is a powerful drama featuring a wonderful performance from Suraj Sharma and some of the best 3D and visual effects perhaps since Avatar. Ang Lee has yet another winner with a seemingly simple story that presents some semi-complex undertones. The 3D Blu-ray combo set offers up excellent bonus features that will keep you busy for a couple hours, although I do wish Lee and company also had provided a commentary.