What happens when a brilliant engineer decides to become a filmmaker? A puzzling plot with a genius idea behind it is produced. First time writer/producer/director/actor Shane Carruth traded careers to pursue his interest in the film industry without disregarding his scientific background.
His debut film, “Primer,” is about two young engineers, Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Carruth), who work for a big company in an unnamed metropolitan city by day, but tinker with inventions in their garage by night. They create a machine that reduces the mass of any object with the accidental side effect of time travel. However, it is difficult for the audience to realize what they have actually created because of the heavy use of engineering and physics jargon to explain their invention to each other. The rest of the film is about how Abe and Aaron control the power of being able to change the future with their machine.
The film is successful in making the situation seem down to earth, unlike most other sci-fi films. Their machine does not have a shiny chrome exterior or a fancy dashboard that digitally displays the year. It is made up of everyday household materials put together in a haphazard manner. Their plans do not always follow through as expected because Carruth’s time travel is not the neat version seen in other movies like the “Back to the Future” trilogy. This version is portrayed as messy and dealing with uncharted dangerous territory. For a first-time filmmaker, Carruth does an excellent job in making the adventure seem realistic.
“Primer” is not for the carefree moviegoer who likes to relax in the theater. In order to understand the plot, the viewer must strain his mind and ears to understand the characters’ dense scientific dialogue. It is a movie that most people will not fully understand until they see it for a second time. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the movie is expecting an explanation at the conclusion of the film. The ending is the most confusing part of the story because by then, the viewer is lost and cannot figure out if the time is the present, past or future.
Aside from the absence of a crisp plot, the character development is also limited. The dialogue between Abe and Aaron almost always consists of the technical aspects of the machine, so the audience never got to know them as individuals. Viewers couldn’t care less about what happens to the characters in their time travel adventures because there is no sympathy for them.
Carruth’s first trek into the movie business is a success, but a muddled one. The film, while not for those who enjoy passive entertainment, is ideal for those who like to interpret films.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars