Monday, 24 December 2012

Life of Pi Review

Life of Pi is a difficult movie to review. It does have a lot going for it, but at the same time I think that each individual person is going to have a slightly differing opinion of it. I've seen many reviewers saying it made them ponder religion, faith, and the meaning of life. I've seen others saying the film's story is actually shallow, and misguided. My opinion falls somewhere between those two. I enjoyed Life of Pi to a certain extent but I do think it is very flawed.

The story behind Life of Pi revolves around Piscine - or Pi - a young man who's parents own a zoo in his home town in India. When his parents make the decision to leave India to live in Canada they board a freighter with the animals on board to set sail for a new life. Then the ship sinks. This leaves Pi stranded in the middle of the ocean on a small raft with nothing but a tiger named "Richard Parker" to keep him company.
The resulting tale tests Pi's faith, and makes him a stronger person - but I'm sad to say it wasn't quite so extraordinary for me.

First of all, the story is seriously slow. Watching Pi overcome his fears and form a sort of bond with the tiger should be an amazing journey, but it just takes so long to actually start that I admit I was genuinely bored. There's a chunk in the film where literally nothing happens and it really tested me and my will to never walk out on a movie.
When things do pick up the story does get more entertaining, however it seems to become too obsessed with trying to force a message on the audience. Desperately trying to give us something meaningful to think about. Evidently, it succeeded with some people but I just didn't understand what it was trying to say. God is real? Never give up? It just left me kind of confused with what the purpose of the movie was.

But, that's not to say this was a movie with no good points because that's just not true. The story may have dragged on and seemed somewhat anti-climatic but there were enjoyable parts along the way. You did feel for Pi at moments, although if I'm honest I found myself feeling more for Richard Parker himself. The tiger had a lot of character and so seeing him in times of struggle was probably more stressful than seeing a member of my own species in that situation.

This brings me onto the stand-out selling point of Life of Pi - the visuals. Richard Parker is totally CGI, and yet not only is he a totally believable tiger, but also he manages to develop a distinct character and charm which is impressive considering he can't talk or really communicate to humans in any way. It is undeniable that the tiger was a huge achievement for the movie.
But the tiger isn't all that's CGI in this movie, in fact almost everything is. The animals, the ocean, Pi is surrounded by CGI for most of the film and yet somehow it never feels obnoxious or in the way. It's incredibly realistic, and necessary to the story.

When you think of just how much CGI is in the movie, it's even more impressive how good a performance is given by Suraj Sharma who plays shipwrecked Pi. With no humans on-screen to interact, or react off of it really must have been a difficult act to pull off. Somehow though he does it and I expect we'll see more of him in the future.
The rest of the cast also give good performances but none had quite the amount of screen time as Sharma. Irrfan Khan was good portraying a wiser, older Pi who also acts as a narrator of the story. He shares the screen with Rafe Spall who is always reliable for a solid performance, however I have to say I haven't seen him do anything particularly impressive just yet.


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