Is there a pattern to the universe? If you thought there was, how far would you go to prove it? Would you sacrifice your sanity and your life? Max Cohen, an ultra-intense balding math genius would. Blessed (or cursed) with a superhuman gift for numerology, Max (Sean Gullette) will stop at nothing to solve this ultimate mystery even though it is obvious that, for his ambition, he is going to pay one hell of a price. Pi starts with this intriguing idea and sustains the energy… for a while.
Max starts with three assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature. 2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature. This mathematical zealot has spent the last decade holed up in a tiny apartment, trying to find patterns in the number, Pi. On the verge of both a breakthrough and a breakdown, Max tries to enlist the help of his mentor and only friend, Sol (Mark Margolis), a man who once came close to unraveling the riddle only to punished for his efforts by a stroke. It seems, even a glimpse at this absolute answer can kill you. Sol’s only advice to Max is to back off and live a real life. Max will have none of it.
Max’s quest is complicated by his own massive blackouts and by the efforts of two competing groups trying to tap his brain for this Holy Grail of a number. A brokerage firm can use the information to predict stock market results, and the Orthodox Jews feel the number, itself, is God’s code. Max takes his experiments to the limit, teetering on the brink of insanity.
Director Darren Aronofsky’s debut effort is a low budget film that makes the most of its limitations. The high contrast, black and white scenes mirror Max’s inner breakdown. The cast does a serviceable job, and the film takes us on an interesting ride, but ultimately the story isn’t as big as the idea. But, then again, when you set out to solve the mystery of the universe, anything less is going to be a bit of a letdown.