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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 14.14%
Just Average: 17.17%
Pretty Crappy: 20.2%
Sucks: 7.07%

6 reviews, 63 user ratings

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by Beth Gilligan

"Carruth sacrifices plot for techincal jargon in Sundance hit."
3 stars

Primer (2004) puts forth some interesting ideas, but anyone who struggled in high school science class is going to be hard-pressed to follow them.

Despite having its indie credibility hacked to pieces by Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures, this year’s Sundance Film Festival nevertheless managed to yield a few fresh, exciting discoveries. Among them was Primer, the Grand Jury Winner for dramatic film. Made by a first-time filmmaker for a budget of roughly $7000, Primer embodies the sort of qualities Sundance juries tend to fall over themselves for. From Edward Burns’s The Brothers McMullen to Todd Soldonz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, the festival has consistently favored low-budget, personal film projects with Cinderella-like backstories.

The origins of Primer, which are currently being gobbled up by the media, are as follows: Trained in mathematics and engineering, 31-year old Shane Carruth began writing the film’s screenplay while still employed as a software engineer. After saving up enough money, he quit his day job, and spent the next three years serving as the film’s director, producer, cinematographer, lead actor, editor, and composer. This is impressive by any standard, but even more so given that Carruth never attended film school, and is essentially a self-taught director.

The director’s lack of experience, however, ultimately winds up being both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, this may be the last instance he gets to demonstrate to audiences his uncorrupted, uncompromised personal vision. On the downside, Carruth allows his enthusiasm for his subject to get the best of him, and as a result, Primer is often weighed down by his over-reliance on technical jargon and somewhat thin characterizations.

The plot – as best I could discern – revolves around a group of young men who spend their free time running a tech-hardware business out of their garage. This is harmless enough until two of them, Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan), find a way to build a machine that seemingly gives them the power to fiddle with time. This discovery forces them to grapple with the essential question (as summed up by the film’s tagline): “If you always want what you can't have, what do you want when you can have anything?”

As this question demonstrates, beneath Primer’s maddeningly opaque surface lie some timely ethical concerns. While I don’t mean to suggest that directors should pander to their audiences, what frustrates me most is that audience members watching this particular film would, be hard-pressed to get a handle on these important issues, given all the technical babble they’re hidden beneath. In interviews, even Carruth has acknowledged that the film needs multiple viewings to reveal itself fully, and all but the most die-hard sci-fi fans are likely to have the patience to fork over the ten dollars to sit through it again.

Carruth may have promise, and he certainly has passion; one only hopes he channels it in a slightly more accessible fashion the next time around.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8535&reviewer=379
originally posted: 10/20/04 11:37:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival. For more in the 2005 Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/25/14 Leo Brim There are answers, you just need to dig deep 5 stars
12/28/13 Marty Never felt dumber in a movie but respect its originality 3 stars
8/08/13 Langano Wow, this movie really sucks. 1 stars
6/17/13 Mark M Good premise but let down by boring execution with unlikable characters. 2 stars
1/22/13 Mike Best (real) time travel movie ever. You'll watch it twice just to figure it out. 5 stars
5/19/11 Mr. Laag Very good, except that It demands at least a second view to fully understand it 4 stars
4/02/11 Vashek Vylet Good idea, but result is sloppy and dull 1 stars
1/18/11 sammyg mind blowing what an amazing film plus when did not understanding afilm mean its bad ? 5 stars
8/21/10 Peepers Sparing, austere, compelling tragedy. Worth repeated viewings. Stellar achievement. 5 stars
8/02/10 mendota "Parts from Wal-Mart," seriously? Mr. McKay was clearly in over his head with Primer. 5 stars
12/06/09 matt completely impenetrable, like wading through a labyrith of molasses in the dark 2 stars
4/07/09 Baloney Better than Timecrimes 5 stars
1/03/08 The Dude What was that all about. I don't really know, but I liked it!! 5 stars
6/05/07 consultation diet pills prescription without diets pill 3 stars
1/24/07 K. Sear The best time travel movie ever. It makes absolutely no concessions to the viewer. 5 stars
11/15/06 William Goss Ow. But a good ow. 4 stars
10/13/06 Oscar Sharp Fascinating movie, especially from a post-heideggerian perspective 4 stars
9/18/06 Mark Keogh Brilliant. A thinking persons film at long last. A movie that bears dozens of viewings 5 stars
9/12/06 Bitchflaps A masterpiece of shoestring budget film-making. Mesmerising! 5 stars
6/05/06 Dean Started off well, but I'd lost the plot by the end 3 stars
5/13/06 jeromebosch garbage 1 stars
12/19/05 patt Just Great 5 stars
11/17/05 Steven Haunschild Brilliant achievement. If you don't have praise for Primer, you don't understand it. 5 stars
10/08/05 justin pynchon+PKD on film; forces you to pay attention; mulholland dr was simple compared to this 5 stars
9/18/05 SY Very good for the director's first feature. Don't be put off if you don't understand. 4 stars
8/25/05 D Buckley This movie is not very good. 3 stars
8/19/05 Terri Sullivan reminded me of Nightingale in a Music Box 5 stars
8/18/05 ALDO hey, it's brilliant, because you don't get it, right? Wrong, but better than Garden State 3 stars
8/12/05 Lily What the hell happened? Attractive lead though. 2 stars
6/25/05 Indrid Cold Brilliant, fascinating, baffling. I didn't know they still made scifi like that. 5 stars
6/16/05 K. E. all over the place 2 stars
5/22/05 y2mckay Pretentious wankfest full of laughable technobabble and sloppy storytelling 2 stars
5/21/05 Cham Looked interesting, but it's utterly pointless, boring, and without any social value. 1 stars
10/31/04 jean-carotte Primer might be the most pretentious and stupid movie ever made. 1 stars
10/05/04 RW I need to see the last 5 minutes again (is this a marketing device to sell more tickets?) 4 stars
9/24/04 durden i got most of it... errr... some of it....i think i need to see 3 or 4 more times 5 stars
9/19/04 denny very enjoyable; needed subtitles to catch all the dialogue; must be seen again 4 stars
6/14/04 Stob this movie was the best independant movie I have ever seen 5 stars
6/05/04 van bullock wow! This was on the genius level 5 stars
6/01/04 Mellifluy It made think, what the *#@!? and then I walked out. 2 stars
4/12/04 Christian Abbott Is the absolute best time travel film I've ever seen. VERY original & thought-provoking 5 stars
3/29/04 bmo brilliant and whole heartedly original 5 stars
3/29/04 Megan Made NO sense to me, but I understand why it won the award (b/c it was made for so little) 2 stars
2/08/04 PIKE David Sullivan is the next Brad Pitt !! 5 stars
2/05/04 Kris M. I was confused from the start and the characters were not engaging. YUCK. 2 stars
2/05/04 ann I can't believe this won the jury award for Sundance. 1 stars
2/01/04 bill sullivan great. 5 stars
1/29/04 Angela Hehner Wow! Can't wait till it's theatre arrival 5 stars
1/28/04 Josef Wells Great Movie. If you have the brains to follow it, you will love it. 5 stars
1/28/04 Rod Barnes An excellent movie... it makes you pay attention the entire time. 5 stars
1/27/04 Matt Smith Great Movie!!! 5 stars
1/27/04 Nancy Dredcoe A $7000 film competes with multi-million dollar films. Says it all. 5 stars
1/26/04 Jon Casey I have much respect for Mr. Carruth. this is the first fim he's EVER made, with little $$ 5 stars
1/26/04 Bob Maplethorpe Absolutely brilliant! 5 stars
1/26/04 Billy Chowder I can't wait to see this Directors' next movie. Amazing 5 stars
1/26/04 Trevor Can't believe this won best film at Sundance 1 stars
1/25/04 John Beakley I thought the movie was very well done and the story line hid the ending well 5 stars
1/25/04 Joe Horn It won Sundance BITCH! 5 stars
1/23/04 David Joyner An excellent story ... don't be misled by the reviewer's narrow minded idea of a good story 5 stars
1/22/04 Neal Dutton Loved it -- from a non geeks perspective -- acting and actors very natural 5 stars
1/21/04 brent kinder I thought it worked, considering what Shane was working with. 4 stars
1/21/04 John Peters Truly unique... refreshing and thought provoking. 5 stars
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  08-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2005



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