First film of the year, and is that Oscar bait I smell? This time of year, you get all these worthy films released in time for the Academy to see them just before they vote. It seemed to be placed as a high-brow alternative to “The Hobbit” as a winter tentpole feature, and that tactic seems to have paid off at the box office.
I admit I was intrigued by the trailer, superb use of Coldplay and great visuals. What I was disappointed by was how spoileriffic the trailer was. it boiled the whole film to memorable spectacular visual moments without much care for the plot it was revealing. Watch the trailer at your peril.
Anyway what did I think? I couldn’t deny that it looked amazing for the most part. At times it did veer a little bit towards a slideshow of beautiful scenes, like a Sky Movies HD advert. It was pretty obvious which bits were meant for the 3D version too (we saw 2D); poking sticks at the screen, fish jumping out of the frame etc., aren’t we above cheap tricks like that now?
More importantly the plot didn’t drag – just as well considering it’s an adaptation of a Booker Prize-winning novel – and the two hour runtime passed mostly without incident. It was quite immersive, and despite a few iffy moments (the origin of his name, for example), I was well on board with the story.
If you hadn’t heard the story, a young boy – Pi – for reasons I will leave to you to watch, leaves India for a new life in Canada. Some catastrophic plot twists take place, and he ends up on a lifeboat with a tiger. It sounds high-concept but it didn’t take much of a leap of faith to arrive there. The second half of the film doesn’t sound too gripping – basically we watch him try and survive for the best part of an hour – and while it does slow down a bit, descending into that Blu-Ray landscape porn I said about, I felt the conclusion did the story justice.
Well, sort of. I couldn’t help but feel I missed the punchline a bit at the end, like I was supposed to have some sort of revelation. Maybe it’s just because I know it’s all fiction, rather than the situation the interviewer is in. He was a bit of a sycophant really, I didn’t like him.
The various ages of Pi fleshed out the character well, particularly Suraj Sharma who had to pretty much carry the film as the teen Pi. The supporting characters likewise did a great job with the minor roles they had.
All in all, definitely worth seeing, though I feel it needs to be seen at the cinema (unless you have a revoltingly huge TV). It walks a few tightropes (style vs substance, quirky vs distractingly weird), wobbling a few times, but otherwise emerging safely at the other end.
My main criticism was more than some people brought their young kids (about 6 years old maybe). Not that it was unsuitable for them as a film, but it’s just not child entertainment. Or it shouldn’t be, they were laughing noisily at serious moments, and asking questions most of the rest of the time. GAH!
Like I said before, if you don’t like spoilers then don’t watch this trailer, but if you don’t mind, then it IS a good trailer.