This is my review of Life of Pi [DVD].
Not having read the bestselling book on which this film is based, I came to the cinema with no great expectations, apart from thinking, as proved the case, that judging by the trailer this would be an excellent theme for 3D film and the use of CGI.
From the outside we are transported to the magical beauty of the Botanical Gardens of Pondicherry, where the oddly named hero Pi's father runs a zoo. Political pressures cause him to take a Japanese ship for French-speaking Canada, with his animals caged in the hold, but disaster strikes when the vessel sinks in a storm and Pi finds himself in a waking nightmare, confined to a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger inappropriately named "Richard Parker".
We know that Pi will survive the ensuing Odyssey, since he is narrating the tale years later to a young writer, but that does not detract from the tension of his struggle to exist, leavened by moments of humour and the astonishing beauty of vast starlit skies, oceans suffused with phosphorescence and a passing school of leaping dolphins. The striking scenes give you a real sense of Pi's loneliness, leading to a subtle identification with the tiger, and of his increasing sense of closeness to the natural world. This in turn helps you to appreciate how such experiences may give people a "sense of god", and Pi is, as we know, very susceptible to spiritual experiences anyway.
At some points the story turns to magical realism, which the computer graphics makes wonderfully vivid and somehow more plausible than might be the case in a novel. The mind plays tricks on people under stress, so we are left uncertain as to whether Pi may have imagined or even invented the story to replace a more mundane and sordid truth.
I recommend this film which can be enjoyed both as simple entertainment, or taken on a deeper level. But to do it justice, you must see it in 3D.