Thursday, June 02, 2005

Movie Review: "Primer"

Starring Shane Carruth and David Sullivan
Directed by Shane Carruth

Made for a mere $7,000, "Primer" is the kind of low-budget creation that could have aspiring filmmakers dream of their own big screen debut. But, on the other hand, "Primer" is also a sometimes maddeningly frustrating film that might inspire audiences with little patience to throw things at the screen.
Writer/director Shane Carruth also stars in this quasi-science-fiction film that follows Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan), a pair of engineers, who spend all their free time closed up in a garage working on ... something.
Early on in the film, what the two men, along with another pair of friends, are working on is unclear. Filled with lots of technical jargon and overlapping dialogue, the film doesn't take the time to spell things out for the audience. This is typically an appealing aspect of a film, but serves as an almost alienating occurence in this instance.
What does become clear is that some sort of time machine is created by Aaron and Abe, who realizing some of the potential ramifications of such a creation, decide to keep it a secret from everyone. This leads to the two moving the device into a storage building, where they each experiment with time travel.
From this comes the inevitable philosophical discussions of what to do with such a device. Initially, the two agree to gain financially by purchasing stocks, knowing how the day's trading will proceed. But increased concern and uncertainty of what impact the time travel is having on current events begins to fill the pair's heads, including, but not limited to the knowledge that copies of themselves now exist.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at 2004 Sundance Film Festival, the concept of the film, as well as some of the ideas it originates, are admirable, but the execution is certainly less than perfect. Aside from the mental gymnastics the film almost seems to be daring viewers to undertake, the two leads are neither sympathetic, nor interesting characters. With no one to identify with, the interesting dilmema of the two men fails to ignite any real concern for the outcome.
For the aforementioned wannabe filmmakers or enginering lovers out there, "Primer" is certainly capable of sparking some interest. For the others, beware.
Grade: C-
(Rated PG-13 for brief language)

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