Starring: Shane Carruth and David Sullivan
Tartan DVD
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3590
Certificate: 12
Available 20 February 2006

Two young engineers, Abe and Aaron, are members of a small group of men who work by day for a large corporation while conducting extracurricular experiments on their own time in a garage. While tweaking their current project, a device that reduces the apparent mass of any object placed inside it by blocking gravitational pull, they accidentally discover that it has some highly unexpected capabilities - ones that could enable them to do and to have seemingly anything they want. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity is the first challenge they face. Dealing with the consequences is the next...


Primer is a movie that will make little-to-no sense the first time you watch it - almost guaranteed. You're going to be watching it at least a couple of times to get the subtle references to events that have yet to come. This also makes reviewing this movie next to impossible - as it's difficult to convey just how well conceived this film is without giving away some of the plot.

The movie starts with engineers Aaron and Abe trying to make a name for themselves. They are part of a group of four like-minded engineers that hold down full-time jobs during the day and then get together to design their own products, which they sell via mail order, during the evenings. They are looking for that break that will allow them to make it rich and leave their dull jobs behind.

Their latest invention turns out to be bigger than their wildest dreams. What at first appears to be a device that reduces the mass of any object placed inside it, soon takes the inventors on a dark journey. It becomes apparent that this device will allow items to travel back in time, and so a larger version is built that can house a human.

It was refreshing to see that the final "coffins" used in the film steered well away from the usual movie clichés. No chrome finishes, or flashing banks of different coloured lights, they are just boxes with wires all over them. Now that's much more believable.

Primer smashes all known genre boundaries, taking the viewer into unknown territory. There is a small problem with this though, 90% of today's audience will simply not get it. They'll go away scratching their heads wondering what the hell they've just witnessed.

Being a huge fan of the Back to the Future trilogy in the '80s and early '90s, I, along with similar minded anoraky types, would spend many an hour working through the countless paradoxes of the movies (like why, in Back to the Future III, didn't Doc just take out the gasoline from the DeLorean in the cave to power the DeLorean that Marty arrived in from 1955? Okay, the whole movie revolves around their search for a fuel source, but why didn't they even consider this option?). Primer knocks this sort of debate up to a whole different level.

There are plenty of unanswered questions and confused situations, but then if you are going to send yourself back to the same time more than once, what do you expect? Some of the interesting elements include the mystery around the bearded version of Abe's girlfriend's father (something that leaves the viewer pondering yet another future that has yet to unfold). Then there is the scratching in the loft of Aaron's house. Was that birds or is it that body (I won't reveal whose) that we know is stashed up there in a different timeline? And then there are telltale signs that it was probably Aaron that travelled back in time before Abe (and that he just went through the motions of letting Abe tell him what he'd discovered). The fact that Aaron's ear bleeds the very first time (or the apparent first time) he uses the box - this doesn't happen to Abe until the second time he uses it. And did I imagine it, or was Aaron's writing a bit ropey before he travelled (well, he grips his pen in a very unusual way) - something that we discover is a side effect of using the coffin.

Stylistically there are plenty of subtle pointers to suggest fragmentation of the timeline. There are shots where numerous windows allow us to view scenes from a slightly different perspective. This is most noticeable in the garage, but is also visible in the airport scene.

Shane Carruth is this century's answer to Orson Wells. He's responsible for producing, directing, writing, editing, composing the music and acting in this ground breaking original work of art. And the fact that he made this movie for a staggeringly low $7000 just proves that you don't need a huge budget to realise your dream.

This is one movie that will keep your mind ticking over long after the credits have rolled. And, each time you watch it again, you'll find something else to set your mind off on another train of thought.

Extras include two commentaries (one with the director and a second with the director as well as members of the cast and crew); original trailer; original trailer; and a some trailers for other Tartan releases. Incidentally the sound on the director's commentary is pretty poor - the sound keeps getting louder and quieter.

Unlike its name may suggest, Primer is certainly a lot more entertaining than watching paint dry. Like Aaron and Abe, watch this once, and then go back and watch it again and again.

Darren Rea

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