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Movie Review: Primer

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Is this a dick flick? You know — the guys’ version of a chick flick?

Sleeper hit Primer won the Grand Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, has been compared to such movies as Pi and Donnie Darko, and has received rave reviews all round.

Donnie Darko is one of my favourite movies. And against all my better instincts — I love science fiction. So, strictly speaking, I should’ve been a huge fan of this film.

But I was unable to watch beyond the first 20 minutes.

What happened?

First off: the premise. The film follows Aaron (Shane Curruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) who are engineers for a large corporation by day, but budding entrepreneur/inventers in Aaron’s garage by night. It is there, in the fluorescent concrete interior of their workshop, that they chance upon a discovery that will change their lives.

The movie opens in a suburban kitchen, with a small group of earnest young men sitting round a dining room table in their shirtsleeves and talking shop. It’s obvious they’re discussing some kind of start-up business. They’re constantly interrupting and speaking over the top of one another, however, which makes it virtually impossible to understand what they’re saying. The action (make that “action” in air quotes) moves to the garage, where the friends continue to spout incomprehensible tech-geek-speak as they carry out mysterious and complicated-looking tasks.

We soon deduce that Abe and Aaron are working — unbeknownst to their colleagues — on a special project. We don’t know what it is. Or why it’s secret. Or what it will do. And neither do they. They keep up their cryptic banter while fitting batteries and wires and god-knows-what-else to a box that makes an ominous humming noise.

At this point we’re already around 15 to 20 minutes into the movie. The characters have yet to utter a comprehensible sentence. The action so far has been confined to rooms lit in harsh, metallic colours giving everything a greenish tinge, including (especially) the people. There is the merest flicker of an emerging storyline. A nascent tension is building but it’s barely discernible.

If I wasn’t so shallow — if I didn’t have the attention span of a fruit fly — I might have taken the time to find out where this movie was going. As it was, however, I just didn’t feel like surrendering two hours of my life to watch a bunch of guys in a garage speaking nonsense.

Unfortunately, I fear this is less a reflection on the movie itself, and more an embarrassing example of my own dumbing down at the hands of Hollywood.

Final verdict? I should really reserve my judgment until I give this flick a second chance.

But if first impressions count, then this one was a stinker.

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About Kirsten Cameron

  • Phillip Winn

    I’d like to say that this movie got a lot better.

    I really would.

    It didn’t.

  • Silas Kain

    Forget the 2nd chance. I saw it three times and still couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. I tried to like it. I tried to appreciate the Indie hype. All I got was a sound alternative to Ambien.

  • kirsten

    Sounds like I’m not missing much. Good to know!

  • Chris Plumlee

    My friends, it does require some attention, granted. But that is what makes the storyline so deep. I just saw this movie this weekend and ended up watching at night and then two more times consecutively the next morning, one with the director’s commentary. I could tell there was severe depth to the story that I couldn’t get the first time. I finally figured out about 90% of the time-sequencing and enjoyed the movie more each time I saw it. This is a great story! The pseudo science is close enough to real science to be believable, much more so than many higher-budget productions I’ve seen. After seeing the ending of the story, revisit an entirely different perspective of the movie you just watched. I am looking forward to unraveling the thread of time that this movie ties into a knot.

  • Sabrina

    I just watched this movie. What I liked about it was how much they tried to stick with real science, (a peeve of mine with H.W. movies). What I did not like about it… it was weak in the direction dept. and the acting, although nor horrible, lacked something and never allowed you to get too emotionally involved or familiar with the characters. They will still strangers at the end. The editing was horrible and the direction did not help! This caused to movie (an already difficult subject and dialogue to follow), to become really hard too follow. It cut off in areas that it should not have and never followed through enough in areas it should have! Thus, making an already difficult movie entirely too difficult! Not to mention, this movie lacked alot and was stiff and dry. I pride myself on being able to watch and understand difficult and obscure movies. This movie lost me near the end, I had a fairly good grip on it almost 3 quarters of the way. Then as the subject became increasingly difficult to follow, the movie started to jump around that much more, as if on purpose to lose you. I almost felt as if this movie was some nerds pre-planned revenge on the world. Like an inside joke that only he and his select nerd group could get. I am a borderline nerd myself, but this movie even lost me! I think this movie has potential, if it were redone by someone with a little better grasp on the big picture and not get so lost in their work, so as not to take a step back and see that their story line is getting jumbled and twisted. Someone needs to remake this one and smooth out the lines. And PLEASE find another editor!! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why anyone made such a big deal about this movie and comparing it to truly good movies. This movie is still a Primer and needs a finish coat!

  • IseeYou

    Your a lazy hack. Why don’t you get a real job? No skills?

  • sam

    If you have no technical or scientific savvy in you, then you wont understand, but if you cant understand it theres not reason to bash the film, as the reviewer said its more of a personal shortcoming than of the film itself.
    I personally am impressed that a fiction could be put together on what is a forefront of discussion for physicists.