Directed by Shane Carruth. USA. 2004.

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Aaron and Abe are two young engineers who spend all their spare time developing an electronics business based in an Abes garage. One of the projects they have been working on starts producing some strange side effects, such as cultivating fungus at 1,000 times its usual growth rate. They realise they have accidentally invented a time machine that will allow them to travel back to the moment the machine was initially switched on.

Cue a multitude of jumps backwards and forwards in time, replicated Aarons and Abes, parallel universes and repeated scenes and dialogue. The film forms a kind of bizarre love triangle between Abe, Aaaron and the machine, as they spiral deeper and deeper into chaos in an attempt to change their immediate history. Like the Weebles they test the machine with, they don't fall down, but the wobbling gets more frantic as paranoia, betrayal and double crossing engulf their multiple lives.

What makes this so compelling, and sets it apart from your standard Hollywood time travel movie, is the believability of it all. First time writer/director (and star as Aaron, cinematographer, editor, composer, probably swept the floor and made the sandwiches as well) Shane Carruth gives us just enough well researched scientific evidence (he was a maths major and engineer in a previous life), but also holds enough back for us to believe that this is all possible.

Carruth purportedly made the film for just $7,000, his grainy 16mm camera work and gravely, cryptic voiceovers bringing a gritty realism and underground feel to a film about an underground project. Effective use is also made of Robert Altman style overlapping dialogue, which adds to the confusion that the viewer has, and the characters feel as they struggle to understand the monster they have given birth to.

Primer is a film that demands much of its audience, but rewards those who can stay with it. It won't appeal to everyone, it's complex and convoluted and you will need to stay alert to every little conversation and plot twist. Even then, expect to want to see it at least once more after you leave the cinema. Or better still, buy the DVD.

Patrick Bliss
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