PRIMER (2004)


Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford

Directed by: Shane Carruth

Synopsis: Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there’s something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they’ve built, wrestle over their new invention.

I don’t even know where to start with Primer. I’m not saying that because it was amazing, or because it was terrible, but because I’m just not intelligent enough to explain it! It was one of those films, kind of like Inception, where by you think you understand what is going on, but really you have no idea at all. That’s not to say it’s too clever for it’s own good. It just means you either have to watch it a few times to get it or you need a scientific mind. I don’t have a scientific or mathematical mind. And as good as I thought Primer was, I don’t want to watch it again.

The big story really is the fact that writer/director/producer/actor/sound editor Shane Carruth did all this himself for a mere $7,000. Oh, and just so he didn’t have to spend a further dime, he scored the music too. Pretty talented huh? Don’t get me wrong, Primer looks like a $7,000 movie at times. The visuals can be grainy, the sound mixing is pretty bad in places too. But, the fact that one man can make a movie this intelligent for a budget as small as that shows you that anything is possible.

The story basically follows Abe and Aaron who have unwittingly built a time machine in Aaron’s garage. Once they know it works, they create a larger version in a storage unit and test it on themselves. And this is where the story at once becomes interesting and hard to follow. The first half hour (the film is only 77 minutes long) is mainly science speak and could easily put some people off before it gets better. The second half is where the fun stuff happens (if you can fathom what’s going on). Basically, the two guys go back in time creating doubles of themselves. These doubles then change the course of history. But the trouble is, I quickly lost the thread of who was a double and who wasn’t, and why this happened and why that happened. I thought I kind of knew, but I didn’t. And that’s Primer’s greatest strength and it’s greatest weakness. It’s smarter than your average time travel or sci-fi movie, but probably too smart.

I really feel this is probably a four out of five movie, but because I didn’t know what was going on by the end, I’ll knock it down to…

3.5 clappers

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.


  1. I didn’t get this film as well, it’s very complex and they talk about stuff that doesn’t even register I have no idea what those words mean.. What I did like was the tone, it’s dark and weird and I think that’s also where the micro budget aspect comes into play.. I’d probably give it a similar rating.

  2. I’ve always meant to see this one! Great write-up. Love a bit of confusing science speak.

  3. Haven’t seen this one yet, will have to give it a shot.

  4. Maybe I was just too stupid for this movie, but I’m still lost about it. However, I guess that’s more of my fault, rather than the movie itself. Good review.

    • I feel like the movie was, if you understood it, a really really good movie. Unfortunately, like you Dan, most of it flew over my head! Yet, I still liked it anyway, if that makes sense?!

  5. Thanks for this review, Tom. This seems like a movie for my TBW list. I’ve read about it several months ago – then it slipped my mind.

    • I would recommend getting a science degree before watching it Karen! Only kidding, but some of it will leave you non-plussed at times. Or maybe not.

  6. Lol – nice review. I tried watching this the other week. And fell asleep like three times in the exact same part where my brain just shut down. ; ) I’ll give it a try again sometime!

  7. Not sure if this is my cup of tea! I have heard a ton about it over the years though. I hate getting headaches from films that are too all over the place. It isn’t fun being totally confused in my opinion haha.

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