Primer (2004)

Primer (2004) – So after Timecrimes, I decided to watch this film: one of the hands-down best time travel movies ever made. It may lack the wacky sense of adventure of the Back to the Future but it has a lot of other stuff going for it. Also, it was made for just $7000, and the most expensive thing was film stock. Holy shit. It is also, according to my former astrobiology professor, one of only five science fiction films he considers to be more-or-less scientifically accurate (I assume that is in regards to the methodology of the plot rather than everything that happens in it). Shane Carruth has said in regards to the movie that “prototypes almost never include neon lights and chrome.” Primer presents a very deglamorized look at science in which possibly the greatest scientific discovery of mankind happens in a dude’s garage… pretty much by accident.

Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) are partners in some kind of technology hardware start-up company. They’re looking to come up with some sort of new product to catch the attention of the big companies. It sounds like it has something to do with superconductivity… I’m not going to lie, Carruth does not dumb down any of the techno-talk so I got lost a couple times (and that’s before any of the time travel). Anyway they build their prototype machine and it has a rather unexpected application: it can send shit back in time. It doesn’t work exactly like most movie time travel. You can only travel back in the machine for as long as the machine’s been on. Also you have to stay in the machine for however long you want to travel back. So if you want to go back in time six hours, you need to turn the machine on, go do something or other for six hours, come back, get in the machine, wait in the machine for six hours, and get out shortly after you turned the machine on. In fact, here’s a helpful diagram I stole from Wikipedia…

They start by playing the stock market, selecting stocks with big single-day earnings. Since the movie is set in March, Aaron at one point proposes making money betting on NCAA March Madness. Naturally things get complicated. I don’t mean ordinary time travel movie complicated. I mean COMPLICATED. Like “I wish I had some kind of advanced degree for understanding this movie” complicated. As I said, Carruth does NOT dumb it down for anyone. This is a smart movie about smart people for smart people. The two main characters are well-developed. The convoluted plot makes sense if you follow it. The movie is very well thought through. This movie is a mindfucker. (By the way, the movie is rated R for Brief Language. I find that ridiculous. There’s nothing in this movie inappropriate for a teenager… if they can follow it…) This movie is a puzzle and great one to try to solve. I highly recommend it.

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