Primer

Self-taught filmmaker Shane Carruth's debut feature, which won the 2004 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, is a fascinatingly obtuse puzzle box that manages to be gripping even after it stops making sense. Whether or not you're able to follow along will probably depend on whether or not you've got a doctorate in quantum physics. Young engineer Aaron...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Self-taught filmmaker Shane Carruth's debut feature, which won the 2004 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, is a fascinatingly obtuse puzzle box that manages to be gripping even after it stops making sense. Whether or not you're able to follow along will probably depend on whether or not you've got a doctorate in quantum physics. Young engineer Aaron (Carruth) and coworkers Abe (David Sullivan), Robert (Casey Gooden) and Phillip (Anand Upadhyaya) have been tinkering in Aaron's garage, hoping to find the next big thing that will transform their little company, Emiba Devices, into the next Microsoft. Robert and Phillip, however, aren't crazy about the direction the project is taking, so Aaron and Abe start working behind their buddies' backs. They've put together an ordinary-looking box that hums when turned on and keeps humming after it's switched off. Neither is exactly sure what the box does, but shortly after sticking a plastic Weeble figure inside for a test run, Abe notices that a mold that should have taken years to grow has covered most of the toy's surface. A quick test with a digital watch confirms their wildest hopes: The box can release an object from its place in time and drop it somewhere else along the temporal continuum. In layman's terms, their invention is a time machine. Abe then makes the logical leap: Could they build a larger machine capable of transporting a person back in time? And could that person then, say, make a fortune in the stock market? Before Aaron can wrap his mind around the possibilities, Abe drops a bombshell: He's not only built a bigger machine inside a storage shed, but he's already traveled six hours into the past. The potential problems are obvious: If you move back in time, you're bound to run into an earlier version of yourself. Only which one is "you," and what are you up to? Carruth, 31, held a series of engineering jobs before teaching himself how to make movies, and is probably a genius of some sort. But it's hard to tell: His narrative gets so entangled in time lines that it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of; you begin feeling as unmoored as the moldy Weeble. But Carruth casts an unusual spell — the mercilessly glaring mise en scene and natural sound betray the influence of Francis Ford Coppola's THE CONVERSATION (1974) — and it'll be interesting to see what Carruth has in store for the future. Or the past... whatever.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Self-taught filmmaker Shane Carruth's debut feature, which won the 2004 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, is a fascinatingly obtuse puzzle box that manages to be gripping even after it stops making sense. Whether or not you're able to follow along… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »