Underrated films presents: Primer (2004)
There are movies that entertain with action, some that entertain with comedy, and there is the rare movie that makes you think. Yes, there are some of us who find the act of thinking entertaining. We’re the ones who find pop-culture movies about lame vampires in love with personality-less high school chicks unbearable. People who watch explosion after explosion while special effects cover every inch of the screen are a little boring. “Primer” is that rare movie that entertains while it makes you think – and does so without gimmicks or a multi-trillion dollar budget.
2004’s “Primer” was shot for a mere $7,000, yet still manages to draw you in and keep you guessing. “Primer” also has the rare distinction of being one of those movies that changes every time you watch it. Having seen the movie three times, we can confirm that it will change at least that many times. To think this was done while focusing on only two characters and a handful of locations, means that we’re watching a movie that is well written and well directed.
The screenplay, by Shane Carruth, is a thought-out version of the way Carruth sees time travel. His take on this story is unique and intriguing; the technology is simple and believable. The character’s motivations are, at least in the beginning, purely scientific discovery. This alone sets this story apart from the rest of Hollywood’s love-driven characters. Believe it or not, people are motivated by factors other than the prospect of getting laid (see 2002’s “Time Machine” remake). H.G. Wells’ original time-traveling tale, “Time Machine,” was about a man and his discoveries on a scientific voyage. “Primer” starts off that way, but eventually touches on more than just the desire to investigate and advance science.
The story is best told from the “Primer” Web site, surprisingly still online, which reads, “ ‘Primer’ is set in the industrial park/suburban tract-home fringes of an unnamed 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 apparent mass of any object placed inside it by blocking gravitational pull, they accidentally discover that it has some highly unexpected capabilities--ones that could enable them to do and to have seemingly anything they want. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity is the first challenge they face. Dealing with the consequences is the next.”
The acting and directing in “Primer” are good. Carruth has said his inspiration was the over-exposed, cold’70s sci-fi movies, which relied less on effects and more on the story to drive it. Naturally, its budget is partially to thank for this, but the direction makes the lack of special effects something you never missed.
The film has been described as an “intellectual thriller” and although this is likely to strike fear into those who typically watch Hollywood garbage, rest assured if you want to see a movie that entertains and makes you think, then look no further. Buy it, if you can ¬–you will watch it more than once. Movies like “Primer” need support, not the dross that Hollywood makes.
Feel free to post your impressions and thoughts on what actually happens in this story. Then watch the film again to see if your perception on it has changed. We bet it will.
Directed by: Shane Carruth
Written by: Shane Carruth
Cast: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan