Primer (2004)

(In theaters, January 2005) Heh! I’ve always said that you can make a real science-fiction film with just two guys in a kitchen, but I never expected any film to embody this wisecrack as literally as Primer. Shot on a ridiculous US$7000 budget, Primer certainly sounds like a low-budget effort (pray that the DVD has subtitles!) and looks like a half-decent Digital Video film. But beyond the grainy look and the inaudible soundtrack lies an authentic work of science-fiction, told in a wonderfully elliptical fashion with enough fascinating ideas to keep your mind running for a while. The cheap look and feel of the film actually helps it in some ways: it looks so unpretentious and, well, cheap that suspension of disbelief is achieved without any trouble. It helps that writer/director/producer/etc Shane Carruth’s script goes where higher budget fear to tread: there is a quasi-documentary rawness to the dialogue that makes it compelling even as you desperately want the production qualities to improve. Just make sure to tough it out until after the thirty-minutes mark: It gets much much better as it goes along. I’m still not convinced that the plot makes complete sense (the sudden appearance of a third, um, traveller is still a head-scratcher, and so it the lack of a follow-up on both that and the sudden bleedings) but it makes enough sense to enchant. During a year where big-budget SF crashed and burned so miserably, it’s something of a wonder that what looks like two guys in a garage came up with a story about two guys in a garage that come up with… oh, but why spoil it? Just see it. With subtitles. I hate to harp on this, but you’ll agree with me after seeing the film.

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