Pi is the complex and intriguing story of a brilliant mathematician, Max Cohen (masterfully played by Sean Gullette), who is searching for the pattern which hides within all chaotic systems by examining the stock market. Max applies three basic assumptions,
1 Mathematics is the language of nature
2 Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers
3 If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge.
Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature.
However, Max is plagued by terrible migraines which seem to have begun when he was young, "When I was little my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six, I did."
To cope with the excruciating pain, and hallucinations he takes a complex mix of medication which borders on an unhealthy addiction. As his grip on reality begins to fade he begins to see chaotic patterns everywhere from the swirling of the milk he adds to his coffee, to the movement of trees in the wind.
His growing paranoia is not unfounded. He is pursued by a ruthless Wall Street firm who want to use his research to control the stock market, and a sect of radical Kabbalists who think that Max can find the true name of god (which they believe is made up of 216 letters and coded into the Torah).
Sol Robeson (played by Mark Margolis) is Max's retired math professor, mentor, and friend. He tells him that in his investigations into pi, he ran into an "anomaly" - a 216 digit number - which occurred before the meltdown of his computer. He warns him not to continue his work, as his own research into pi led to the stroke which almost killed him, but Max is too obsessed to listen.
Pi was shot on a low budget in black and white, using hip-hop montage to good effect to show Max's paranoia and migraine induced hallucinations. The musical score is excellent, featuring Orbital, Aphex Twin, Massive Attack and others. This definitely adds to the movie's tension, and pace, drawing you into Max's frightening and chaotic world. The movie is genuinely original, and makes for compulsive viewing. It could be described as a horror film, and is very unsettling in places, but it is much more cerebral than most of the film in this genre. The whole cast perform well, despite the fact that only Mark Margolis has previous acting credits. In particular, Sean Gullet's performance is excellent.
The director, Darren Aronofsky studied film at Harvard University. He won a number of awards for his senior thesis film, "Supermarket Sweep" (also starring Sean Gullette). Pi was his debut, and won best director at the Sundance Festival. In May 2004, he began production on "the Watchmen" based on the brilliant graphic novel by Dave Gibbons. This should be well worth looking out for.
I would definitely recommend this film if you enjoy a bit more depth in your movies. The film demands your full attention, and will leave you with plenty to think about. It has a distinctly philosophical bent, and the number theory is presented accurately. Unlike most movies, there is no "bad science" or annoying gaps in logic and it may well awaken your interest in this branch of theoretical maths.