Review: PRIMER by Shane Carruth

I stumbled on the DVD of this film while aimlessly browsing the racks of DVDs
in a local DVD store and was intrigued by the blurb on the back of the box -
perhaps because of what it does not say as much as what it does.

PRIMER is set in the industrial park/suburban tract-home fringes of an
unamed contemporary city where two young engineers, Abe and Aaron, are members
of a small group of men who work by day for a large corporation while
conducting extracurricular experiments on their own time in a garage. While
tweaking their current project, a device that reduces the apparant mass of an
object placed within it by blocking gravitational pull, they accidentally
discover that it has some highly unexpected capabilties - ones that could
enable them to do and have seemingly anything they want. Taking advantage of
this unique opportunity is the first challenge they face. Dealing with the
consequences is the next.

So firstly this is movie about two geeks, secondly my curiosity cannot resist
knowing what the unique device is and thirdly the price (only about 6) was
right so the DVD ends up coming home with me.

Now, this is the first film that has inspired me to watch the director’s
commentary in it’s entirety after watching the film itself so that’s some
indication of how intriguing I found it and also that the plot was hard to
follow in places and I was curious enough to want to investigate further.

I think this is the first time travel film I’ve seen where the scriptwriter
has actually thought really hard about how it would work and how ordinary
people might react given that capability. Thankfully the main characters do
not suddenly transform into stereotypical Hollywood action heroes. Rather than
committing the normal Hollywood error of explaining so much that a drugged 5
year-old [1] would find it too simple the story perhaps leaves out a little
too much (or maybe I just drunk too much beer while watching). That’s not
necessarily too bad - I got a lot of extra enjoyment trying to figure it out
and searching the web for more information.

With a film like this there is a temptation to over-analyse as can be a seen a
little in the film’s forum but
looking at some of the fan produced
timelines shows how much
there is to the actual story of which only a fraction is actually present in
the film.

While watching the film it’s obvious that it’s low budget but that does not
detract too much from the experience. I certainly wouldn’t have thought that
the budget was as low as $7000. It also happens to be Shane Carruth’s first
film. While I think he got carried away with some of the camera work and it’s
obvious he was learning as he went I’d love to see what he could do with a
“real” budget.

- Film website
- Timeline
- Wikipedia

View the discussion