Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Kristyn
Mae-Anne Lao, Stephen Pearlman
All of a sudden, movies like Good Will Hunting and Cube have made mathematics and mathematical theory both exciting and sexy. First time feature writer/director Darren Aronofsky uses complex mathematical theories as the basis for the plot of Pi, his ambitious, but off beat and unsettling low budget thriller.
Highly strung number theorist and computer whiz Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) sees patterns everywhere in nature. He is obsessed with discovering a code that will crack open the secrets of the stock market. His holy grail is the 216 digit number that will supposedly unlock the secrets of the universe. Max refuses to heed his ailing mentor (Mark Margolis), who warns him of the folly of pursuing his quest. Somehow his search brings him into contact with a shadowy Wall Street firm that want to use his expertise, and some renegade Hassidic Jews who want to unlock the centuries old key to their religion. They believe that Max’s research will enable them to see the face of God. Gullette, who shares a screen writing credit for the film, gives an unnerving and edgy performance that captures the desperate and disturbed air of this unusual protagonist.
Pi is not an action thriller, despite a chase sequence filmed with the stop motion style of photography championed by Chris Doyle and Hong Kong cinema. Rather, this is a challenging and cerebral, paranoid sci-fi fable for our times. The film raises a number or questions about our soulless contemporary society and its obsession with technology. Pi also deftly mixes complex mathematical concepts with religion, but the film risks becoming inaccessible. Aronofsky seems to become too clever in exploring the film’s intelligent yet complex themes, and he does not hand out easy answers. His deliberately allusive structure and elusive images will potentially alienate many within the audience. Much of the film takes place inside Max’s cramped, over crowded apartment, where he hides from the real world behind his locked door. This gives the film a claustrophobic feel. The banks of computer equipment that line his apartment also lend something of an otherworldly feel to this environment. Aronofsky also imbues the film with an uneasy air of paranoia. Matthew Libatique’s cool, sparse black and white cinematography evokes the look and feel of the film noir of the 50′s and ’60′s.