Movies like Primer are a rare commodity in the world of film. With a budget of $7000, Shane Carruth wrote, directed and starred in a unique piece of Sci-fi that garnished respect from viewers and critics alike. Found in the “Thriller” section of Netflix, it boasts an incredibly complex story that caused me to pause the film multiple times in an attempt to grasp what on earth was going on. It’s not that the movie didn’t make sense, it’s simply that it was pretty complex, which was half of the fun. Trust and fate tend to be fairly common themes in film, especially science fiction, however this made-at-home approach to them forgoes the grandeur of the space operas and action packed counterparts for something that felt much closer to home.
We’re introduced in the opening scene to a group of four friends who have started a business they run on nights and weekends making error-checking devices. As they discuss the future of their business and what project they should tackle next, it becomes apparent that not everyone is optimistic with the direction their taking. Two of the friends decide to work separately and secretly on another project that reduces the weight of object. Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Shane Carruth) continue discover strange anomalies associated with this new device. The more they learn about the possibilities, the deeper the pool of possibilities becomes. What starts out as a solid friendship soon devolves into a competitive struggle for power, with consequences more dire than either could have imagined at the start of their venture.
Primer is a hard movie to follow. I don’t want to give anything away, because the revelation of what’s going on is half the fun. The audience is put in the same shoes as Abe and Aaron on their path to discovery, the wonder of a groundbreaking scientific discovery is shared between the characters on the screen and the audience in their seats. The movie is fascinating, but it’s not without its faults. First is the fact of the budget. With only $7000, we don’t get the polished mega blockbuster with the Hollywood sheen. Rather this movie feels like a home movie, something that could have been whipped up by a couple buddies over weekends…which essentially it was. The sound has issues in some parts, and the lighting faces similar challenges. Some of the acting is unconvincing, but not to the point where it becomes unbearable. The other obstacle is the complexity of the movie. I’ve seen this movie twice in my life, and have read various articles and seen graphs explaining what happened to me. This will be a huge turn off to some people.
While it’s shortcomings are substantial, the story and dialogue more than make up for them. The film is absolutely fascinating to watch, and honestly, if a movie is smart and capable of holding your attention and causes you to think while entertaining you, I think it was a success. Primer fore-goes fancy looking effects for a smart premise with well constructed scenes and dialogue to fuel it’s momentum. This is done out of sheer necessity, and it’s what has caused this movie to stand out against the odds.