Newest Review: ... just seemed dull, slow and confusing, making it harder to watch and not something I felt gripped by. DVD released 2006, rated Certifica... more
Member Name: alexandjef
Date: 08/02/12, updated on 09/02/12 (17 review reads)
Advantages: Complex and invigorating. Really anti commercial
Disadvantages: Tough to follow - understanding this is a challenge.
PRIMER - 2004 MOVIE/SCI-FI/77MINS/12C/DVD/£5.67NEW/£2.12USED
I was lucky enough to see this at a the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham in 2004. A friend of mine is much more of a movie buff than me, and has his ears and eyes in all the right places to make sure when we wen't to the cinema together it was to see something great.
I walked into the cinema excited as you usually do - I left utterly confused but satisfied. Even thinking back to this film was confusing. I watched it only a few weeks ago after I saw it was going really cheap on Amazon and I've been meaning to ensure it was in my collection for a while. Even though I saw it recently, thinking back and trying to put the plot back together is a bit of a headache let alone try and explain what happens. Stick with it though, I've your put off don't be - its a great film. And you don't to need take just my word for it, it won at Sundance 2004.
The casting and background to the movie is almost as an original a tale as one as the makers commit to film. A man called Shane Carruth is the brains behind the operation here. You would be forgiven for having never heard of him, he came out of nowhere with this film. No back ground in film making or acting as such and unfortunately mostly vanished with the hype surrounding the film. Word is, hes working on something else slated for late 2012/13 - almost ten years since this time.
I say Carruth is behind this, but in-front of it too. He wrote, produced and directed the film, as well as was cast in the lead role.
Staggering, and a real talking point surrounding the film is its budget - Carruth personally fronting the mere $7000 it took to make. Unheard of these day and in 2004. Most of the money going on the actual filming, cost were cut with the film being made at the actors homes and props were made cheaply. To save money and have full control, Carruth spent 2 years editing and working on post production - teaching himself as he went.
Carruth play Aaron and he teams up with Abe - played by David Sullivan, another name unheard. Sullivan differs from Carruth however as he does have acting credentials - popping up in US cops shows now and again in minor roles. Since his work rate has picked up and he has been in a few independent films, but nothing huge.
A couple of others pop up infront of the camera, but this film is sparse. Two others bulk out the film actor wise, with the two most secondary roles going to Casey Gooden and Anand Upadhyaya - another two males actors who are almost totally unknowns.
Another point made a lot when the film was buzzing, and still referenced a lot when reading up on the film is how Carruth was formally and engineer before truning he mind to film making. Its worth remembering this.
Now it gets tough.
Its a film, broadly speaking about time travel. Well, its exactly about time travel - but its no Back To The Future. I love films and books about time travel, I would go as far to say I love The Time Travelers Wife because how it takes an idea that has been talked about, fantasied over and been the source of hundred of hours of entertainment, but pulls and tangles up the realistic notions of the time travel. Having a fresh take on something is always welcome in my books - and it doesn't get fresher than the plot of Primer.
I will explain it as best I can - and its going have to be a little simplistic as to not lose myself, or you. But trust me it is complex. Four engineers, headed up by Carruth as Arron, are all working on projects in a garage. They are trying to put their collective engineering chops together to build something thats going to make them money. They spend just as much time working in the garage as they do squabbling over what the should focus on.
Abe and Arron agree on what to focus on - its not made clear what they are working on. Unless it is, as comes the big trick of this film. On the commentary that accompanied this DVD, Carrurth states he didn't want to compromise when writing the script. He wrote it as an engineer and therefore used lots of langue alien to many people. Its dizzyingly complex, even when they appear to be casually talking over a trivial point. Just enough is let slip through to hold the casual watcher - you can roughly follow what is going on and just about stay on top of it. I know nothing about engineering and didn't find this a turn off.
You see them in the garage and in the house, building and talking and as the film progresses the seem to be pretty excited by something. You can roughly work out they have stumbled across time travel - be it in a very small way, sending particle back in time by split seconds. They do a great job of making it look like people actually figuring out time travel.
All while this is happening and among the deep dialogue, the plot is flicking from point to point in an way its hard to stay on track - the harshness of all this is well broken with a lovely piano sountracking the film and some nice single camera work. Lots of close shots and sharp cuts put together the film which has an atual glow. When its bright the scenery is a bright golden and outside locations are lit naturally but you get the impression the blue and greens have been turned up in post production.
Very little of the script is used to explain what is going on. In fact hardly any. You can only tell if things are going well or bad depending on how joyed or stressed they are.
Carruth has stated how he made it complex on purpose to make sure the story telling was as complex as the content - and this works well. It doesn't put you off, its adds to the feel of this film.
A point comes when its declared they are out of their depth. And then the time travel gets complex as the plot is gently tugged at - where Abe and Aaron figure out how to use the machine, discover its restriction and start using it. All around this are clue to what will unfold - keep a close eye on the background and generally whats going on. Attention to detail is key with film.
I won't spoil the ending, because I can't. Telling you what actually happens is hard, but its safe to say its a bittersweet discovery. The second half of the film is drenched in a somber vibe, when they discover what this find means realistically.
The film is shot very well, beautifully even. Its hard to think this was made by amateurs - its just too good. So good, watching this does feel like its giving Holywood the middle finger.
------WHAT ELSE ------
The DVD has two commentorys that are both great. Essential even. They help scrape away some of the fuzz this film leaves you with, and gives some brilliant insight - hearing Curruth talk about how he built this film in post production and it was a real labor of love. He's poured a lot into this film. The DVD has a couple of trailers and the usual like scene selection and what not. Its has another nice little bonus - physical notes from film critic Kim Newman that serve has a nice little bit of extra insight and opinion of the film.
This is a great, clever film and I would recommend it to anyone that likes clever cinema that takes a fair bit of focus. Morally, it doesn't try to choke you with telling you right and wrong - and this is more than welcome. It leaves you think, but it doesn't present you with real question of insight. Its got a lot in common story wise with Donnie Darko and Memento but much more grown up than both. Style wise its got a lot of the spirit, be it a little slimmer, than The Social Network - infact both look, sound and feel similar. Its got that paced cool Fincher left his hit from 2010 dripping with.
Summary: A must see sci fi