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4.7 4

Cast: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya

The debut feature from filmmaker Shane Carruth -- who wrote, directed, photographed, edited, scored, and stars -- Primer is a psychological sci-fi thriller about a group of four tech entrepreneurs. Toiling away in a garage, the quartet have successfully created error-checking systems for their clients. But their recent work seems to have created an unexpected


The debut feature from filmmaker Shane Carruth -- who wrote, directed, photographed, edited, scored, and stars -- Primer is a psychological sci-fi thriller about a group of four tech entrepreneurs. Toiling away in a garage, the quartet have successfully created error-checking systems for their clients. But their recent work seems to have created an unexpected and seemingly impossible side-effect. Suddenly, two members of the group realize they are in possession of a device that can double, or perhaps even quadruple, the space-time continuum of anything that enters it. What at first seems like a windfall of astronomical proportions eventually proves to be much more than they bargained for, as the duo attempt to manipulate time to their financial -- and emotional -- benefit. Also starring Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, and Carrie Crawford, Primer premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the coveted Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Bill Pearis
"With great power comes great responsibility" may have been a quote from Spider-Man, but it also works for Primer -- a complex sci-fi morality tale that won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Writer-director Shane Carruth and David Sullivan star as engineers who spend their free time working with two other tech-heads on inventions in their garage. One of their projects turns out to have an unexpected use -- time travel. This is not your typical movie time machine where you set the date and you're whisked through a special effects sequence. "The Box," as it's referred to, is simply that, made of dull-grey steel. They don't know if it's safe, or how it works, just that it seems to. After testing it on a Weeble and a watch, and briefly discussing causality and ethics, Abe and Aaron fashion boxes for themselves. From here on out, the narrative gets really, really complicated; and these once close friends and confidants begin to mistrust each other. Made for a mere $7,000, Primer is the rare modern science fiction film that eschews special effects in favor of ideas. The story is so dense that some viewers may feel their brain melt while trying to keep up with who is doing what to whom, and when. The film's murky sound mix doesn't make things any easier, although turning on the English subtitles helps. You may end up thoroughly confused yet eager to watch it again. Few recent films, aside from politically divisive ones, have proven so effective in spurring debate and thoughtful conversation. Like the time-fractured instant classic Memento, Primer is a fascinating cinematic puzzle that calls out for endless replay on DVD.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
There's a moment in Shane Carruth's impressive debut feature, Primer, that sums up the filmmaker's point-of-view quite nicely. It's not the line quoted in many reviews, where one addled engineer asks another, "Are you hungry? I haven't eaten since later this afternoon," although that line exemplifies Carruth's prickly wit. It takes place before the main characters' great, accidental discovery when two men discuss NASA's efforts to develop a pen that would work in zero gravity. After spending millions trying to work out the problem, the agency ended up using a simple pencil. Primer is the science-fiction film equivalent of that pencil, and the remarkable amount of bang the film gets for its buck is only one of its virtues. A less imaginative filmmaker with a big budget at his or her disposal would have started the film where Carruth ends Primer, a precarious moment when it seems the world is about to change. But Carruth is more interested in intimate moments of discovery, as the moral and philosophical implications of Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron's (Carruth) invention reveal themselves. Because Carruth trusts his audience's intelligence, he allows us to share in these discoveries, rather than spelling everything out. Which is all well and good, to a point. But even the most attentive viewers may have trouble finding their bearings as the film opens with a quick flow of engineering jargon, and anyone who can follow the temporal twists and inversions of the film's final third probably deserves an engineering degree. Primer is a witty, well-shot, and convincingly acted science-fiction brain twister, leading one to suspect that on repeated viewings a rock solid narrative will reveal itself.
Village Voice - Dennis Lim
Primer unites physics and metaphysics in an ingenious guerrilla reinvention of cinematic science fiction.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
It is maddening, fascinating and completely successful.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
New Line Home Video
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary track by writer/director Shane Carruth; Cast and crew commentary track

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Shane Carruth Aaron
David Sullivan Abe
Casey Gooden Robert
Anand Upadhyaya Phillip
Carrie Crawford Carrie
Jay Butler Metalshop Worker
John Carruth Man on Couch #1
Juan Tapia Man on Couch #2
Ashley Warren Hostess
Samantha Thomson Rachel Granger
Chip Carruth Granger
Delaney Price Laney
Jack Pyland Aaron's Coworker
Keith Bradshaw Clean Room Technician
Ashok Upadhyaya Laboratory Technician
Brandon Blagg Will
Jon Cook Will's Cousin
David Joyner Rachel's Date
Eric de Soualhat Translator

Technical Credits
Shane Carruth Director,Cinematographer,Editor,Producer,Screenwriter,Sound/Sound Designer
Daniel Bueche Cinematographer
Reggie Evans Sound/Sound Designer
Anand Upadhyaya Cinematographer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Some of This You Know [3:34]
2. 8th Grade Physics [1:19]
3. Wooden Pencil [2:57]
4. Creating the Box [5:19]
5. Tell Me You're Hungry [1:58]
6. Feedback Loop [4:21]
7. Protein Buildup [5:00]
8. Parabola [3:38]
9. Not a Prank [4:45]
10. Abe's Day [5:17]
11. Exiting the Box [3:25]
12. What Would You Do? [3:48]
13. Keeping Secrets [3:06]
14. Is Hero Here? [5:54]
15. A Long Day [8:04]
16. How? [4:08]
17. Following the Script [5:41]
18. Don't Come Back [2:26]
19. Epilogue [:38]
20. End Credits [1:41]


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Primer 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The engineer jargon is a little hard to follow in this movie, but the acting is very good and realistic. At times this movie can get confusing and certainly warrants multiple viewings. One of the coolest time travel flicks I've seen in a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is how time travel will be discovered - more or less by accident. The characters and their conflicts and interactions are excellent and realistic. I bought the movie.
FFBuu More than 1 year ago
"Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to read this...and you're going to listen..."

Primer is one of the greatest movies I've ever seen. There is so much to see and think and discuss about. If it weren't for it's low popularity it would be a cult classic.

"The Permutations are endless..."

Starting off the plot is simply stunning. Roughly, it follows the story of two average joes who stumble upon the method for building a time machine. The heavy technical jargon and conversations actually give the proposed method a grounded and highly possible feel. But it's not as simple as just building a time machine. Things quickly get complicated and a highly engaging story is built. Complications worsen and your left there, mind scrambled after the first viewing. At 80-some minutes the movie is short but you'll spend more time thinking then days of daytime television. Paradoxes and clever time workarounds are both spelled out and shrouded in little clues for you to figure out after your 5th time watching. The plot is amazing and clearly an amazing effort was set out between the writer, director, and editor for the seamless cohesiveness.

"They took from their surroundings what was needed...and made of it something more."

That's because they're the same person. Shane Carruth, the genius behind Primer, wrote, directed, spent years in post-production, AND was one of two lead actors for a movie he made on $7,000, almost all of which was spent on film stock. The movie never comes off looking cheap, in fact it looks more professional than many A-list movies I've seen. Visuals look very good, from simple rooftop views, to expertly placed fades and camera moves. Every frame seems meticulously planned, and that's needed because clues to the Primer 'puzzle' are everywhere.

Acting is solid, albeit dialogue confusing at times. It relies heavily on technical talk and this gives the movie a different feel. Perhaps considered as a downfall but the talking makes you feel involved, not like just a person sitting in a movie theater. It's like your watching the action unfold for the first time, and your left to figure out as the characters are.

"And if you look, you will not find me."

Primer is something that every 'thinker' or 'Intellectual' should give a try. Unless you happen to be a college professor on Time Paradoxes, this movie will leave you wondering and pondering for many long car rides to come. Watch it with a friend, and contemplate the possibilities, but please. Give this film a try. You won't be disappointed.