Primer (2004) – Shane Carruth

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The 101 Sci-Fi Movies let me settle in and re-watch and re-examine the convoluted, interweaving story that comprises the time-travelling conundrum that is Primer.

This one isn’t one for a mindless afternoon on the couch, you need to pay attention, keep threads straight in your head, and try to follow the technically thick dialogue, even when you’re not always sure what is being said.

Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) are a pair of innovators and inventors working out of a garage on their free time, putting together ideas and items, hoping to find the next big thing.

As they start creating and building a machine, they discover they are on the verge of something big, something life-altering.

They’ve discovered time-travel.

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From that moment on, the story becomes more convoluted, as timelines are altered, trust is pushed to the limit, and who can be trusted?

Smartly realized and scripted, and brought in on a $7000 budget, the film never gives the audience a moment to catch up, The tech-talk is heavy but all the clues, all the hints about what is really going on is all there, and the film’s internal logic remains consistent, no matter what appears to be changing or how brain-frying the thought processes seem to be.

Each of them begin to manipulate the timeline, sending themselves back in time, and then watching the influences both financial and personal throughout the day, and changing and benefiting from them, when they emerge from their boxes in a rented storage box hours earlier.

Paradoxes, closed loops, and altering timelines all come in to play in this film, even though they aren’t given the big budget, spectacular special effects outlets we’ve come to expect. Instead this film focuses solely on the characters, and even then you’re not always sure of which one you’re watching, an original? A double? Something else?

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Jealousies, greed, and emotion end up ruling both Abe and Aaron as they begin to exploit the benefits, even lying to one another, if not themselves about what they can and can’t change, and using little aids to help them through the day, and make  the most out of it, at least financially.

I do like this one, but like I said, it’s a complex film, the dialogue is dense, so it’s not one of those films you can wander in and out of the room while attempting to watch. This one requires your full attention, and you need to be mindful of all the details, as everything in this film is planned out to the last detail.

You watch it once to get the gist of it, and then you watch it again, and again to pick out all the minute details that help to create and maintain the film’s internal logic.

This one is a fine example of a well thought out science fiction film, made on a shoestring budget and still captivates, entertains, and like the strongest sci-fi… gives you lots to think about.

And would you believe there is only a whopping 4 titles left in the 101 Sci-Fi Movies book?

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