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Ang Lee's epic tiger-on-a-boat saga proves why it took home four Oscars on this jaw-dropping 3D Blu-ray release...
Fox / 123 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG / Street Date: March 12, 2013
Ang Lee deserved that directing trophy. His inconsistency as a filmmaker is deviously frustrating – one wishes we could just strike Lust, Caution and Taking Woodstock from his C.V. – but when he hits, he hits hard, and I doubt he’s ever made a film quite as profoundly big as Life of Pi. Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are spectacular achievements, of course, but even the mid-air martial arts acrobatics of that latter film feel minute in comparison to the global cross-section of Life of Pi.
If The Hulk was a testing ground for Lee to figure out how to bring earnest human angst and inner conflict to the screen via CGI, Life of Pi is the final product: the movie’s navel-gazing premise and ultimate thesis might be too woo-woo for casual American viewers, but the big-budget entertainment value inherent to the movie is strong enough that even full-tilt haters must admit the film is made pretty darned well.
Lee’s film almost revels in the idea of being labeled as ‘the movie with the tiger in a boat’ because Life of Pi works best as a film viewers know very little about. Its fable sensibilities take a while to set in – we don’t get to sea for the better part of an hour – and then once we know everything we need to about Pi (Suarj Sharma) and his particulars, Lee lets the story clock us like an uppercut. What begins as a simple, unassuming coming-of-age story turns into (honestly) a young man’s quest for the meaning of life. And again, for a big chunk of the movie, he’s stuck on a boat with a hungry tiger.
The Ben Affleck Argo snub will likely be the Oscar story that maintains press relevance in the years to come, unfortunately, but although many American viewers have little to no interest in Life of Pi, it’s reassuring to this writer that Ang Lee’s magnificently rendered morality tale was the Academy’s big winner this year, because as revisited on this astounding 3D Blu-ray edition, the movie isn’t just bigger than life: it’s deeply, probingly cognizant, a film that starts big and then both in terms of visual scope and introspective emotional meditation just keeps getting bigger.