Film Review: Pi (1998)

Also known as: π
Release Date: July 10th, 1998
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette, Eric Watson
Music by: Clint Mansell
Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib, Pamela Hart, Ajay Naidu, Joanne Gordon, Stephen Pearlman

Protozoa Pictures, Artisan Entertainment, 84 Minutes


Pi is the first feature film from Darren Aronofsky. As I am slowly re-working my way through his too small of a film catalog, I figured I would start with his first film.

This movie is probably my favorite Aronofsky film, I’ll wait to confirm that for sure until after I revisit his other work and I still haven’t seen Noah, his most recent effort.

For a film that was shot for $60,000, Aronofsky did a brilliant job of stretching that money and making this film work. It was grainy, dark and at times disorienting but that worked for the film and not against it and to be honest, it was intentional and gave this movie a depth and a darkness that it wouldn’t have otherwise had. While Aronofsky’s Requiem For a Dream is dark and unsettling, it has a clean and pristine look to it. This film accomplished more visually with the director forced to make the best out of his lack of equipment and tools.

The plot of this film is pretty straightforward but still feels disjointed at times. Granted, it is supposed to feel that way, as well as surreal and often times a few steps outside of reality. While you know what is happening, you are never sure of what is real and what isn’t and while that is a plot device that has been used more times than I care to remember, this film does it in a very effective way and ultimately, when the ride is over, you don’t care about what was a real experience and what wasn’t because either way, the main character has gone on an insane journey involving mathematical equations, the secret to cracking the universe, secret evil Wall Street societies and angry Jews who want the mystical numbers in an effort to talk to God.

The main character was played by Sean Gullette, who also co-wrote the film with Aronosfky and has gone on to be a pretty accomplished screenwriter after this film. He acted incredibly well in this film and while his character Max was hardly likable in any way, you still felt for him and cared about his well-being. It was hard not to respect a guy who had the level of intelligence he had and even though he was a prick, he was an interesting character that pulled you in.

One of my favorite actors, Mark Margolis (who is now probably most known as Uncle Tio from Breaking Bad a.k.a. the wheelchair dude with the bell), plays Max’s mentor who has a similar obsession with numbers as well as the board game Go. Margolis was tremendous in this picture and his performance was chilling, as he gave what I felt was something so organic and real that he was more than just some supporting character or mentor in this film. In a way, Margolis sort of became the voice of God warning Max away from his thirst to crack the universe with numbers.

Many films lose their effectiveness on repeat viewings. Pi does not. It is a masterpiece by Aronofsky and was one hell of a starting point for his career. He started with the bar really high. Luckily for us, for the most part, he has lived up to the hype and the standard that he created for himself back in 1998 with this great picture.

Rating: 10/10

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