Metascore
72

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 23
  2. Negative: 1 out of 23
  1. 90
    A triumph of low-end production design, shot in sizzling, solarized black and white, and driven by a propulsive, insinuating score, Pi is a horror movie that makes you think and an indie film that makes you squirm.
  2. Reviewed by: Joshua Klein
    90
    Aronofsky's ability to capture the rush and confusion of racing down a timeline toward infinity, only to suddenly slam into a dead end, makes for impressive and occasionally disturbing stuff.
  3. It is a brilliant intellectual adventure that fans of bold independent filmmaking will want to experience, even though the ending is something of a letdown.
  4. 88
    The seductive thing about Aronofsky's film is that it is halfway plausible in terms of modern physics and math.
  5. Reviewed by: Laura Miller
    80
    It's precisely when Pi is the most arty and least "commercial," when it's serving up head scratchers instead of intrigue, that it's most entertaining.
  6. 80
    Whatever its faults -- and it has more than a few -- it is unquestionably different. It at least takes a stab at interpolating cerebral ideas into the format of a thriller.
  7. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    80
    This is very much a first feature, with all the hyperbolic, sometimes indiscriminate cinematic energy of a student film. But it's also sensational, a febrile meditation on the mathematics of existence.
  8. 78
    Brilliant, surreal, and emotionally draining, this first feature from American Film Institute grad Aronofsky recalls such low-budget sci-fi epics as "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" and more traditional paranoiac suspense films (Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" in particular, but also Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby") and yet manages to be a wholly original animal.
  9. This intellectual allegory would carry more punch if it didn't slip into melodrama so often, but it marks Aronofsky as an exceptionally promising new filmmaker.
  10. It proceeds, weirdly enough, from the truly annoying to the absolutely fascinating.
  11. Reviewed by: Barbara Shulgasser
    75
    Pi will not be for everyone, but for those who are fed up with the mainstream idiocy that gets dumped into theaters each summer, this movie willbe like a great big palate-clearing taste of sorbet.
  12. 75
    For anyone who wants a movie to feed their intelligence and imagination more than their eyes and ears, Pi is a solid choice.
  13. Audacious and bursting with ideas, the paranoid little sci-fi independent film Pi marks an auspicious debut for New York writer Darren Aronofsky.
  14. The movie's freakazoid intensity gets to you, but there's something at once cramped and show-offy in Aronofsky's refusal to even slighty vary its atmosphere of shock-corridor burnout.
  15. As smart as it is, Pi is awfully hard to watch. Filmed with hand-held cameras in splotchy black-and-white and crudely edited, it has the style and attitude of a no-budget midnight movie.
  16. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    70
    The film's imaginative, diverse images create a mind's-eye urban claustrophobia; such intensity may exhaust over 85 minutes' course, but it's never less than impressive.
  17. Reviewed by: Eve Zibart
    70
    Pi may be the most engrossing piece of cyberpunk cinema yet.
  18. Reviewed by: Bruce Diones
    70
    Aronofsky's delirious, Kafkaesque writing and imaginatively distorted camerawork don't quite add up, but it's fascinating, hallucinogenic film work.
  19. 60
    Its power lies both in Aronofsky's evocation of tightly wound paranoia and in his flawless dovetailing of personal obsession and cultural anxieties.
  20. Reviewed by: Tom Meek
    60
    Director Darren Aronofsky, creates an eerie "Eraserhead"-like world that keeps the film compelling even when it digresses into a silly cat-and-mouse psychodrama.
  21. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    60
    Shot in grainy, high contrast black-and-white with a lot of simple but effective optical and aural tricks to suggest the workings of his unusual mind, this is one of the most intimate movies in recent memory.
  22. 60
    In the end, it's primarily a brain teaser, obtuse and ultimately limited in its emotional impact.
  23. Reviewed by: Bill Boisvert
    30
    With this odd mixture of elements the film's tone is gloomy, portentous, and hysterical, yet at the same time strangely earnest and square, as if David Lynch had tried to somehow make a movie version of Scientific American.
User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 53 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 16
  2. Negative: 3 out of 16
  1. Dec 6, 2013
    1
    It felt more like a random assortment of shots more so than a film. I get that it was extremely low budget, but maybe not releasing this one as a feature film would've been a better idea because I think there's more grains in this video than there are grains of sand on the beach. Only affect I enjoyed was the black and white. I felt that it added to the thrill/suspense intended, but otherwise, despite Max's growing insanity, it does not really provide any thrills that I was hoping for. Ultimately, it just left me confused. Full Review »
  2. Sep 13, 2013
    8
    The best word describing this movie is "disturbing". This is a psychological thriller made in black and white colors. Stylish visuals. Rather unusual movie, I've seen nothing like this before, surely worth watching. Another thing great OST with Clint Mansell's main theme. Full Review »
  3. Jun 22, 2013
    5
    The 15th anniversary edition of Pi is being released, and as an admirer of the film, Black Swan, I finally availed myself of the opportunity to see a movie that has to be termed Early Aronofsky. Filmed in black and white, it is the confusing and excessive story of a mathematician who has stumbled upon a data stream of 216 numbers that is a secret code coveted by both greedy Wall Street moguls and religious Hasids. In an eerie and perhaps brilliant precognition of the kind of vice and avarice that would overwhelm Wall Street ten years later, the financial fiends believe the number will give them control of the stock market. The Hasidim believe the number is the pattern they have been searching for in the Torah, which will give them the true name of God and somehow restore the Temple and the ancient glory of Judaism. The mechanism for how this is supposed to work is unclear, but Max Cohen, the mathematician played by Sean Gullette, is being followed and harassed by all parties because of his intellect and his innate ability to decipher this code.

    As a child, Max's brain was affected by an incident where he almost blinded himself by staring into the sun, and the trauma turned him into a mathematical and computer genius. Aronofsky's 1998 vision of a computer genius was already outdated as we see Max sitting in an apartment with an enormous home-built computer that takes up the entire apartment. At that time, personal computers with their small CPU chips were not only in widespread use, they were much more powerful than any home-built computer could ever hope to be. The first programmable computer, called ENIAC, which was built in the 1940's, filled an entire room, weighed thirty tons, and contained 18,000 vacuum tubes--and ENIAC was much less powerful than a typical personal computer. So a computer genius in 1998 would have been very happy to have an IBM PC sitting on his desk in his small apartment. It would have been all he needed.

    The Kabbalah behind the story is also a little weak. The 216-letter name of God is one of several that are considered to be the true name, the most famous one being the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton--yod, hey, vav, hey, or YHVH in English, and rendered erroneously as “Jehovah” by Christians. The name is not supposed to be spoken; thus, the original, ancient pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton has been lost and no one knows how to say it. The 216-letter name referred to in the film is actually the 72 names of God, all of them consisting of three letters (therefore adding up to 216), and all of them well documented and well known to the Hasidim.

    The film is a psychological thriller with nerve-wracking music as Max races to find this 216-number data string. It causes him migraine headaches, paranoia, over-the-top agitation and distress, and too many times Max is screaming, passing out in his apartment, and waking up with a nosebleed. When he leaves his apartment, he is often being chased by the people who want the number, and the camera work is so dizzying that the viewer ends up getting vertigo. The denouement is not very satisfying--some intrigue is built up in the plot device of a numerical pattern that could control the stock market or restore the Jews to a messianic age, but in the end, the tortured Max drills a hole in his brain, which should have killed him, but fiction being what it is, instead just takes away the mathematical talent that makes him a hunted man. After performing this operation in his bathroom, Max can live a normal life.

    The film is historically of interest because it is suggestive of the later themes that Aronofsky will treat with greater success and detail in subsequent movies.
    Full Review »