Review of Primer (2004)

14 Dec

Primer (2004) is an independently made sci-fi/drama/thriller film, made on a budget of $7,000.

Directed by Shane Carruth (Upstream Color (2012)), this is his directorial debut, Carruth is a former engineer and it shows in the movie.

Written by Shane Carruth (A Topiary (2013)), his scientific education also obviously influenced the way he’s written the movie.

Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya and others.

It’s a short movie, talking about it is hard without spoiling too much, it’s a small movie (small budget, small names, small cast), it’s amazingly complex and I still don’t fully understand it, no one involved has done any previous work and so on.

But it is undeniably fascinating.

Weird how much the style of the movie is influenced by Carruth’s experience in the science field. His decisions were very guided by this. The dialogue is full of technical jargon, which audience isn’t really supposed to fully understand. And the main characters work on their projects in a garage lit by flourescent lights, so it gives the film this very sterile, yet dirty tone. They are not sure of what they are doing. And don’t bounce off the walls and ceiling, while operatic score plays in the background, when they discover something. It is an incredibly subtle film.

Carruth decided to portray one of the lead character, because he thought actors add too much drama to it and I can see how someone could easily come across as too dramatic in this film. A very energetic person showing up here would seem like overacting. But I’m not saying the actors here don’t emote, they do, but you can’t always catch it, like when in reality talking to people not every emotion shows up on their face. The acting from Carruth himself and David Sullivan is just great, as they show the friendship of two young men just changing as they make a big discovery.

Similar subtlety is in the narrative, where the big plot points are presented just as casually as the simplest exposition parts. This film doesn’t tell you which are the important parts, it actually tells you a lot less than you’d expect.

I think it’s not a huge spoiler that the movie involves time traveling. And if you’re not a genius with incredible concentration abilities, it’ll take you some time to actually get how it works, even after they explain it. And maybe you won’t understand it fully at all. I know that I keep trying to figure it out, because there are blank spots you have to fill in yourself, for it to make sense.

And it almost feels like a documentary, where you watch these people working, quietly debating stuff and being unsure of what they are doing. Also the device, which allows the time travel is no DeLorean or other futuristic space traveler accessory, but more like some unfinished part of factory machinery.

Overall, a great, fascinating movie, made on what can barely be considered a budget, an original take on the time travel sub-genre of sci-fi and rewards multiple viewings. Recommended for intelligent people and genre fans.

Pictured: Mind-fuck.

One Response to “Review of Primer (2004)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Review of Looper (2012) | karlails - October 17, 2012

    […] time travel aspect is actually really well thought out and no wonder, since Shane Carruth, who made Primer consulted Rian Johnson and if there’s one person in Hollywood (read ‘sort of making movies’) […]

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