Life Of Pi - Blu-ray Review

'In the main middle section, Lee excels. Knowing he has to create visual interest out of a man and a tiger stuck in the middle of a blank canvas, the director goes to work.'

A multi-Oscar winner, Life Of Pi is exactly the sort of film that should be rewarded with praise, come the end of year awards. Technically complex and innovative, Pi also benefits from the storytelling work of Ang Lee, a director who more times than not, proves that he knows what he's doing. Add to this a subtext-heavy narrative and you're on to a winner.

Despite all that praise, Life Of Pi isn't quite perfect. Audiences can be forgiven for an ambivalent first reaction to a key reveal in the film's closing moments, something along the lines of 'what was the point of all that then?' It's an ultra-realist approach and most who find themselves in that mindset will experience a thawing of their critique over time, but the response is still a valid one to a story not afraid to play with fiction and fact. The setup too, with a younger Pi (Gautam Belur and Ayush Tandon) learning about religion, is less interesting than the main bulk of the story, when the excellent Suraj Sharma takes the reins of the character. This criticism is also true of the admittedly well played conversations between Rafe Spall's writer and Irrfan Khan's adult Pi. They're extremely well written but they're not as interesting, or as beautiful, as Pi stranded in the ocean.

In this main middle section, Lee excels. Knowing he has to create visual interest out of a man and a tiger stuck in the middle of a blank canvas, the director goes to work. Luminous whales, hordes of meerkats, flying fish attacks and a desert ocean reflecting the soft sand-pink glow of the sky. Anything not designed to titillate your eyeballs is out at first cut.

Left in a CG world with a CG tiger, Pi becomes a fable of a life at sea and the elements which govern it. Religion is set up from early on as a concern not just of Pi himself but of the world which he inhabits and the story his older self weaves. The equality and equanimity of beliefs, brought together in an unforgiving location, through a universal story, is suggested not by the content alone but by Pi's assertion that 'religion is a house with many rooms'.

Step forwards in time and doubts about the ultimate authenticity of Pi's story unsurprisingly surface. The fable has come full circle. Like religion, Pi is asking us to have faith, to believe in something we cannot verify, to accept his message with an understanding that the facts may be muddled. This has been read as a musing on storytelling in general - and it is - but taken within the context of a film that goes out of its way to emphasise the importance of religion to its protagonist, there is no doubt what Pi's ultimate message is.

Lee's success, and the success of Yann Martel's novel in the first place, is in wrapping this fable in a story compelling and emotional enough in its own right. The final meeting between Pi and Richard Parker is tear-jerking. The dictation from Khan to Spall reaches an emotional climax at the same time. Life Of Pi is a tale not wanting for surface level beauty and simple emotional crests, but hidden beneath this glassy surface a world of gliding themes and luminous whales, waits.

Life Of Pi is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 29th April 2013.


  1. It was a beautiful looking movie, but I could never latch onto the story, so I don't like it as much as everyone seems to.

    1. Interesting, I thought I might have a similar problem but it did a good job of hooking me.