Primer is a terrific independent film made on a budget of just $7,000. Primer is sort of a combination of Silicon Valley and The Time Machine. It starts out like a documentary with 4 techie guys in a garage trying to become the next Apple or Microsoft. Primer then slowly changes into a story about the dark side of human nature, and forces that people are unprepared to explore.
It is incredible that Primer was made for $7,000, when you consider how many terrible Hollywood movies have costs hundreds of millions. There are no special effects and the people are all genuine, but it is definitely a Sci Fi film.
The techie guys start out with really stupid inventions, like a gas that makes refrigerators colder, but has the downside of possibly making the ice cubes poisonous. Then two of the guys – Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) – construct a machine that has some wondrous properties they don’t really understand. Aaron and Abe know they are onto something big, but they don’t know what.
Of course, the first thing Aaron and Abe do is to hide the machine from the other members of the team. Anyone who has ever worked in a startup company recognizes how real this scenario is. In startups, everyone is “an important part of the team” until it looks like the company might actually make some money. Then the knives come out.
The machine seems to be able to put out more electricity than it takes in. It also seems to make objects slightly lighter. Most wondrous of all, it appears that The Machine might impact Time itself. Adam and Abe don’t know if these events are really happening. The changes are so slight that maybe their instruments are just measuring things wrong. They decide to go the next step and build a huge version of The Machine.
People have been fascinated with the possibility of time travel, ever since H.G. Wells first published The Time Machine in 1895. Primer is one of a huge number of movies that explore the possibilities and pitfalls of trying to tinker with the natural order of time.
In Primer, the time machine does work, but only in a very limited way. Arron and Abe are brilliant scientists, and they are well aware of the risks of time travel. Therefore, they set up all sorts of fail-safe ways to protect themselves, the timeline and the world from this most dangerous of inventions. Of course, even the most brilliant scientists cannot think of every possibility.
We will not reveal any more of Primer’s plot, other than to say it has stories within stories and you have to watch very carefully to see exactly what is really going on. Primer was written by Shane Carruth who also stars as Aaron. Primer first premiered in 2004, and despite its $7,000 budget, took in a Box Office gross of $424,780. The film still holds up today. Primer shows how good a film can be when movie makers concentrate on great writing instead of car chases and special effects.
- We rate Primer Four Stars ****
- For another great independent Sci Fi film see Another Earth.
- See all our movie reviews.