Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 25
  2. Negative: 2 out of 25
  1. 100
    Primer unites physics and metaphysics in an ingenious guerrilla reinvention of cinematic science fiction.
  2. Consider Primer a successful lab experiment with, as they might say in techie chat rooms, significant indie-cred applications, IMHO. Oh, and :-).
  3. 90
    A half-baked conspiracy subplot in the last third makes Carruth's knotty narrative even harder to follow, but this is still scary, puzzling, and different.
  4. 88
    It is maddening, fascinating and completely successful.
  5. An ingenious blend of sci-fi and mystery.
  6. Reviewed by: Aaron Hillis
    Refusing to dumb down for a mass market, Primer is "Mullholland Dr." for math geeks, "Memento" for mad geniuses, or simply one of the most inventive films ever made for pennies on the Hollywood dollar.
  7. 80
    A dense and dazzling science-fiction mind-bender unassumingly dressed up in a tech geek’s short-sleeved oxford shirt, pocket protector and safety goggles.
  8. 80
    A brainteaser of the first order, Primer ranks among the best of recent thrillers such as "Memento" or "The Matrix," which rupture the fabric of reality and radically destabilize the narrative in kind.
  9. It's hard to always know what Primer is saying or where it's heading, but it looks fantastic while it unfolds and you won't be able to forget what you've witnessed.
  10. The screenplay is convoluted but fascinating, flawed less by its built-in complexity than by the limitations of the characters' psychological depth.
  11. 75
    Primer is obviously not for all tastes, but if it connects with you, prepare to be obsessed.
  12. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Shane Carruth's extraordinary work of shoestring speculation throws you into a deep ocean of techno-jargon and lets you dog-paddle or sink like a stone.
  13. The movie may be too precious for mass consumption, but its filmmakers' willingness to assume the best of their audience, combined with its Everyman origins, suggest a movie that deserves a chance.
  14. Reviewed by: Carina Chocano
    Frustrating as I ultimately found it, Primer is undeniably geek heaven. For everyone else, it's a nice antidote to big-budget bogusness.
  15. Reviewed by: Robert Dominguez
    One of those purposely head-scratching films meant to be viewed more than once. The extra ticket sales should easily cover Carruth's initial $7,000 budget.
  16. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    It's a puzzle as much as a plot, but when it's in focus (which it isn't for long stretches) it's remarkable brain-food.
  17. At a certain point, Mr. Carruth's fondness for complexity and indirection crosses the line between ambiguity and opacity, but I hasten to add that my bafflement is colored by admiration.
  18. May be too clever for its own good. Essentially, it's the story of weekend scientists who build a time machine in a suburban garage. But this nearly gets lost in a miasma of technical jargon and scientific conjecture.
  19. Reviewed by: Neva Chonin
    Doesn't always work, but it challenges, nonetheless.
  20. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    A fascinatingly obtuse puzzle box that manages to be gripping even after it stops making sense.
  21. Love it or hate it, you won't be able to leave it alone.
  22. Every frame of the way, it's eminently clear that Primer is the work of an engineer, not a film- maker.
  23. 40
    Inspires plenty of head scratching and maybe a little irritation.
  24. As Primer progresses, it just gets murkier and the experience of it more drudgelike.
  25. 25
    A real head-scratcher that somehow won the grand jury prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 82 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 38
  2. Negative: 7 out of 38
  1. Aug 27, 2010
    A minor miracle of a film, this movie manages to pull off everything a major motion picture should have (great scripting, amazing acting, drama, etc.) with a mere budget of ~$7,000. It's simultaneously captivating, confusing, frustrating, and in the end, completely gratifying - even if you can't put all the pieces together on the first viewing. I already can't wait to watch it again. Full Review »
  2. Jan 24, 2014
    In today’s day and age, we throw around the phrase “mind-blowing” a lot ( probably published three articles this morning that contain the phrase…the other articles are insinuating that you don’t know anything). However, I have to say that “Primer” is as close to a real life instance of my mind actually exploding! The way this film handled time travel came off frighteningly realistic and, if it wasn’t for the below average acting, you could easily think it was a documentary on the discovery of time travel. Even though the acting isn’t great, the film delivers an incredibly intelligent script that actually challenges the viewer and is, quite possibly, the smartest, most realistic, science fiction film I have ever seen. Full Review »
  3. Dec 7, 2013
    After failing to market the machines commercially, the inventors discover something shocking, they’ve actually created time machines. In a non-descript storage facility in the suburbs sit these mysterious machines, the culmination of hard work done at nights and on weekends; the capital for the machine’s production, all the funds the group could muster.

    Conscientious from the beginning, the men predict the dangers of their creation. They profess their not wanting to alter the past. They try to keep the project quiet, under wraps from world, but things easily get out of control amongst themselves. Aghast at their errors, they try to set things right, but since time travel functions according unknown sets of laws different from those of linear time, the concocted logical solutions to their problem end up becoming just additional steps towards disaster.

    Supposedly made for only $7000, this film is a marvel. Not only is it a fascinating story, the camera work and the production value is very good. With long scenes, and thoughtful performances by the cast, this quasi Sci-fi/Arthouse film is a visual pleasure to watch. It doesn’t screen as a low budget thriller.

    While Director/Writer Shane Carruth’s vision isn’t exactly crystal clear, and this mystery is part of the charm. For a film about a complex subject like time travel, the success is in Carruth’s ability to purvey the concept with very little flare. Everything seems to have aligned perfectly here. That is not to say it is the greatest film ever, but for a movie about such complicated subject matter, the bare-bones approach is very interesting. The script and characters talk about what they know. A narrator fills us in on a few more key details. Then the rest we are left to figure out on our own. As a sci-fi thriller this film works very well.
    Full Review »