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Primer (2004)

A movie directed by Shane Carruth

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Can't Wait To See More From This Filmmaker!

  • Apr 24, 2005
My husband is a HUGE fan of time travel movies, and when he heard about a film called Primer winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, he wanted me to keep an eye out for it to add to our online rental queue.

There's a whole lot of talking in the first 15 minutes or so. It's kind of aggravating because you can't hear what they're saying because they're speaking over each other. (Found out later when listening to the director commentary that it was rehearsed many, many give a feel of improvisation).

I had a feeling that if we hung in there, we'd be rewarded. Some just get that feeling.

Yes, the plot is convoluted. The director wanted to stay true to "real science", so the back-and-forth talking was, well, real science. I just wished that it was mentioned early on just *what* they were building in the garage! (You find out through the director commentary that they were building a superconductor. Don't remember even hearing that in the movie.) Rather, there's a lot of techno-speak about freon, freezing points, and so on.

I have to say that I knew nothing about this film when watching it. I was struck by some of the unusual camera angles...I felt like I was watching art. The acting was incredibly believable, and the sound "effects" were organic and analog. Found out through the commentary that this was the director's precise intent. You don't get the feeling that you're watching a slick Hollywood production; instead, you feel like you're literally a part of these guys' pet projects.

As time goes on, tension builds and a sense of foreboding enters the picture. There were quite a few scenes where I gripped my husband's hand and my stomach was in knots. I said to him "Man, this is like a horror film!" I don't like slashers, or even horror films, but my idea of "horror" was the implications of what those guys were doing in the garage...and then, later, in the U-Haul storage center.

Surprisingly, the director and writer was also the main star. He's a *wonderful* actor that looks a bit like Keanu Reeves. The guy playing Abe was just as good. And the *think* that this guy filmed in his proverbial backyard is amazing. There's some really great shots in this film. And you know what? I didn't even notice the music until the second play-through with the director's commentary. To me, that's good music editing...when you don't even know it's there. (And yeah, the director did the music, too...on his computer!)

The movie's ending is confusing, and I still am not sure about some of the elements. When you're dealing with time-travel scenarios and messing with the future, you'll have that, I guess.

If you're the type of person that wants/needs everything spelled out for you, you may not like this film. If you need "the point" on a proverbial billboard, or want mile-a-minute MTV-like action, you may not like this film. But if you're fascinated by the idea of time travel and other scientific "what ifs?", you'll likely enjoy this cerebral movie. If you enjoy subtlety as is seen in movies such as Office Space, Pieces of April, Napoleon Dynamite, etc.-- as well as flicks that are compellingly character-driven--you'll likely love this movie. Those who appreciate the art of filmmaking will no doubt enjoy this movie as well...especially after you hear the director's commentary (and what went into making this film.) And contrary to what another reviewer said, not ALL shots were done in one take. This movie wasn't done slipshod and then sent off to Sundance. A lot of care went into this movie...with Shane and his co-star rehearsing one scene (a dialogue) for two months.

I'm excited to see more from this filmmaker, writer, and actor. He is truly a talented is his main co-star and the other actors (one of which is also the cameraman).

Note: the DVD said it was R rated for brief language, but I can't remember one curse word being uttered! Go figure.

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Janet Boyer ()
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Author of The Back in Time Tarot BookandTarot in Reverse. Co-creator of theSnowlandDeck. Hall ofFame/ VineReviewer; Freelance Writer/Reviewer; Blogger; Professional Tarot Reader/Teacher; Lover … more
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About this movie


Primerwon the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and has drawn repeat viewers eager to crack writer-director-star Shane Carruth's puzzler of a time-travel drama. Carruth, an engineer by training, plays inventor Aaron, whose entrepreneurial partnership with fellow brainiac Abe (David Sullivan) unexpectedly results in a process for traveling back several hours in time. The men initially use these rewind sessions to succeed in the stock market. But a dark consequence of their daily journeys eventually complicates matters. If this sounds like a very commercial, science fiction thriller,Primeris anything but that. Shot on 16mm for $7,000, the film has a tantalizing, sealed-in logic, akin toMemento, that forces viewers to see the fantastic with a certain dispassion. One may be tempted to sit throughPrimeragain to more fully understand its paradoxes and ethical quandaries.--Tom Keogh
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Director: Shane Carruth
Screen Writer: Shane Carruth
DVD Release Date: April 19, 2005
Runtime: 77 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Video
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