Fox // 2012 // 123 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 1st, 2013
Lions and tigers and bears...oh my!
But mostly tigers.
Winner of Best Visual Effects and Best Director at the 2012 Academy Awards, Ang Lee's film brings author Yann Martel's cherished novel to life on the big screen in gorgeous 1080p high definition. Life of Pi is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.
Young Piscine Patel (played by various actors at various times in the film) lives in India's Pondicherry district and grows up in a family that owns a local zoo. Piscine is given the name "Pi" after children at school mock him because his name sounds like the word "pissing." Pi becomes entranced with religion -- all of them, to be exact -- and decides that he will adopt the philosophies of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism.
When Pi is 16, his father (Adil Hussein) decides that it is time to sell the zoo and move west. Pi's entire family -- mother, father, and siblings -- board a Japanese cargo vessel on its way to Canada with the animals crated up to sell in their new country. However, the ship finds itself in the grasp of a terrible storm that eventually will leave only five survivors afloat in a life raft: an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and a very scared and frail Pi. Three of these animals aren't long for this world, leaving just Pi and Richard Parker on the boat together. Mortal enemies, Pi and Richard Parker must learn to coexist together on the boat if they are to eventually make it back to dry land. As the days turn into weeks, Pi and Richard Parker discover that you can find the greatest of life's moments in the darkest of its hours.
Life of Pi is a magical movie experience. It is a film of great power, great visuals, and great storytelling. If it sounds like I'm gushing, there's a good reason: this is easily one of the best films I've seen in a long time and gets my consideration for the best film of 2012.
Life of Pi works on multiple levels. As pure entertainment, it's a magical experience. On a deeper level the film has a lot to say about the human spirit enduring against all odds. Pi's adventure on the boat with the tiger can be an allegory for any number of struggles a person will face; it is by sheer faith and willpower that Pi and Richard Parker are able to not only tolerate each other but come to respect each other. Much like director Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shawshank Redemption, viewers can take away from the movie more than just performances and story; they can see themselves in the desperation of the characters and the hope they eventually discover. It's this kind of storytelling that raises a film above being just popcorn entertainment into something more.
The effects work in Life of Pi, while not completely flawless (a sequence on a mysterious island was colorful but too busy for my tastes), is as good as I've ever seen on-screen. The filmmakers have done the impossible, which is to make a tiger out of thin air. Richard Parker becomes more than just a digital creation; he becomes a flesh and blood animal that you totally believe is on the boat with Pi. You can feel the intense danger that Richard Parker poses to Pi as he paces back and forth waiting for his next meal. Life of Pi is so seamless in this relationship that you forget how hard it must have been to make a boy and a tiger share the same space -- especially when the tiger wasn't even there -- and make it feel realistic. Life of Pi deserved all of the awards that it was lavished with, but especially the Oscar for special visual effects.
The cast of Life of Pi is uniformly excellent. Although everyone in this film offers up a very well rounded performance, this is really Suraj Sharma's film as his performance is what carries it for most of its run time. Sharma was picked out of obscurity and his casting is key to the film's success. Sharma is able to convey awe, fear, hope, and wonder as he slowly comes to terms with his very dire situation. Irrfan Khan (The Amazing Spider-Man) as the adult Pi gives one of the most moving performances in Life of Pi; near the end Khan discusses his experiences on the boat and it becomes the single most emotionally resonant monologue in the film. Although the rest of the cast (including French sensation Gerard Depardieu as a surly cook and Prometheus's Rafe Spall as the writer hearing Pi's story for the first time) is only on-screen for a small amount of time, they make a deep impression on the viewer.
After seeing Life of Pi for the first time, I told my fourteen-year-old nephew that he should see it. "That movie looks stupid," he scoffed. "All it is about is a kid and some tiger stuck on a boat. Who wants to watch that?" After months of pressure, I finally was able to sit my nephew down to watch Life of Pi. Once the storm hit and the animals got tossed into the boat together with Pi, my nephew settled in and was riveted to the screen until the very end.
Yes, Life of Pi is about a kid and a tiger stuck in a boat. Yet if that is all you see, you aren't looking hard enough. The film gets one of my highest recommendations.
Life of Pi is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. All I can about this transfer is WOW! 20th Century Fox has put a lot of work into making sure this is one of the best looking images on Blu-ray this year. The film is full of beautiful colors and awesome visuals, accentuated by the crystal clear nature of the video image. Shapes nearly pop off the screen (who needs 3D?) and the entire production just has a brilliant sheen to it. I honestly don't have a single complaint about this transfer; Life of Pi on Blu-ray looks just stunning.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround in English. Along the lines as the video transfer, this audio mix is truly great. The viewer is enveloped in the sounds of the ocean as Pi and Richard Parker struggle for life. The enchanting music score weaves in and out of the speakers beautifully, making for one of the most pleasing audio mixes in recent memory. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (Traditional), Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Plus Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks in Spanish, French, Greman, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Turkish.
The extra features include a lengthy four-part documentary on the making of the film ("A Filmmaker's Epic Journey"), a featurette on the effects work with Rhythm and Hues visual team ("A Remarkable Vision"), a featurette on the tiger, Richard Parker ("Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright"), a small gallery of pre-production artwork, and seven storyboards from the film. Also included is a bonus standard DVD copy and digital copy.
Life of Pi was one of the best films of 2012. It's a haunting, moving, complex yet simple film about survival and hope during your darkest days. Ang Lee has proven he is a master craftsman. Fox has done a great job on this disc, offering up a stunning high definition picture and a fantastic audio experience.
Truly a wonder to behold.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (German)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Czech)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Hungarian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Polish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Turkish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Image Gallery
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site