After being disappointed at Looper‘s halfhearted commitment to the time travel tale, I began looking into different movies of the genre and stumbled upon the 2004 film Primer, written, directed and starring Shane Carruth. Coming into the film I had little to no information on what Primer was like, only that most film critics praised it’s scientific application to time travel. Little did I know that I should’ve gotten a second opinion.
Aaron, Abe and their two friends are engineers for a large company and spend their spare time tinkering and constructing tech for a profit in Aaron’s garage. After a minor disagreement, Abe and Aaron decide to work on their own project without their other friends. It appears that they attempt to build a machine that counters gravity, but soon realize that they have inadvertently created a time machine. The two friends decide to keep their discovery a secret and sit on it for a while; though Abe begins experimenting with the “box” on his own. Abe lets Aaron in on what he has been doing and the two begin to use time travel to their own advantage. They are cautious enough not to mess with larger scale events of the past and future, but instead increase their personal wealth by playing the stock market. Eventually Aaron and Abe get more adventurous and greedy with their time traveling, taking bigger risks that change their relationship forever.
I knew about 25 minutes in that I wasn’t going to like this movie, the characters spoke in scientific babble which confirmed that my Left Brain shall never be fully utilized. I understand the concept of independent filmmakers taking avant-garde approach to selling their story, but Primer could’ve benefited from a little more direct exposition. Initially I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what Aaron and Abe actually did for a living, let alone what they intended their prototype to be (thank you internet.) The time travel was also something that I couldn’t wrap my mind around – they set a timer, leave, blind themselves from the outside world and wake up in a box…? (See chart below) I knew my brain was going to hurt while watching this movie, but I thought it would be a good hurt. I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan-style reveals, misdirects and other types of mind-blowing plot turns, but none of Primer‘s felt earned or adequately explained. By the time Abe and Aaron start to try to change the past you can’t remember why they are trying to do it and more importantly you don’t care.
Final Grade:★★ 2/5 Stars
Rent it? Only if you’re scientifically-inclined