Primer [2004] is about two entrepreneurial creators who set out to create a project bigger than any they have built before. The film is extremely intelligent and, therefore does not pander to the audience as it bends and weaves its complicated premise throughout. This is one of the most ambitious debut features I have ever seen, and director Shane Carruth helms it well. Carruth is brilliant at making this extremely low budget film seem much bigger than it is. The film was shot for $7000, but it feels much bigger due to the profound concept material. Carruth thankfully assures that the audience is never taken out of the film despite the low budget.
Chit-Chat and Atmosphere. Almost the entirety of the film is the two main characters talking, which sounds terribly colorless and un-cinematic however the dialogue is interesting and plot-progressive enough that it rarely gets boring. The film fails to properly utilize cinematic language which does make it feel a little like a student film. Instead, Carruth opts for haunting atmosphere, leaving only dialogue to progress the narrative (which is actually quite charming in a way).
Your Brain Will Pop. The plot is so complicated that you would need a detailed diagram to properly understand it (don’t worry, there are some online). Carruth makes a profound exploration of the film’s narrative concept, despite it being a concept we have seen hundreds of times before (I am being as vague as possible to try and avoid spoilers). This is a film that will blow your mind when you finally understand it all.
Flaws? The actors are convincing, despite their characters being a little undeveloped. I appreciate that Carruth starts the film in the middle of the story without exposition as to why these characters are together, or why they are building this machine; he is trying to make the story contained and waste no time. Unfortunately, what he ends up doing is creating two completely indiscernible main characters; which is a major issue because at least one of these characters is obviously supposed to have an arc of moral decline (you can’t have an arc without establishing the character in the first place). You could argue that the characters are secondary in this particular film, which is true in concept but in regards to the film’s narrative these characters and their developments are necessary. I believe this was more of a budget issue; although I wish Carruth could’ve afforded an extra 15 minutes to establish the characters, I understand why he chose to leave it out in favor of the plot and concept.


A flawed masterpiece? Yes, but there is nothing quite like it.