Classic Film Review: Primer (2004)

So I just finished watching Shane Carruth’s 2004 debut film entitled Primer…

Primer tells the tale of a group of four young scientists working out of one of their garages to start their own company. Two of them, Abe and Aaron, start work on their own machine, which initially is meant to counteract gravity. However, soon, they realize that this machine is acting erratically, because, in fact, they have accidentally invented a time machine. Abe and Aaron then start experimenting with the machine, which leads to paradoxes and unknown consequences which will affect the rest of their lives…

What a movie. An incredibly intelligent and high concept sci fi film about the scientific and ethical consequences of time travel.

Great script, great characters and performances (Director/Editor/Composer/Everyman Shane Carruth, and David Sullivan, give stellar performances as Aaron and Abe), good cinematography and editing, great score, interesting discussion of themes, etc.

This film is so dense and technical. Since Carruth has a degree in math and was an engineer before making movies, he wrote a script full of scientific and technical jargon and I love when writers do this. Carruth doesn’t dumb down anything for the layman, he treats the audience like they’re intelligent and they give you enough to make sense of all the fancy science stuff the characters are talking about and the consequences of their actions.

But I’m not gonna lie, I believe I’ve missed some things in this movie because of how thick the hide of this film is to penetrate. When they start messing around with events in their life and going into the past, it becomes quite challenging to keep up with what is going on and how their time machine works. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it can be a deterrent.

Overall, this film is definitely not for everyone. It is obtuse, challenging, and dense. But it is that level of challenge that has made me a fan of this director. Definitely a film I am going to revisit, and if you’re up for it, I highly recommend this film.

9 out of 10 (Maybe a 9.5, or possibly even a 10, on subsequent viewings. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there)

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