Primer

User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 108 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 84 out of 108
  2. Negative: 12 out of 108
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  1. ShawnO.
    Aug 9, 2005
    8
    About a year ago I saw 20 minutes of this film online and wanted desperately to see it and then I completely forgot about it until I saw it sitting on the rack at Hollywood Video and again I was very excited to watch it. I've realized something: I really like Independent FIlms. Primer is a great science fiction movie in the truest sense of sci-fi being fiction based upon actual About a year ago I saw 20 minutes of this film online and wanted desperately to see it and then I completely forgot about it until I saw it sitting on the rack at Hollywood Video and again I was very excited to watch it. I've realized something: I really like Independent FIlms. Primer is a great science fiction movie in the truest sense of sci-fi being fiction based upon actual science. Anyone panning this movie just doesn't get it. I will grant you that the techno-babble in this flick is way over the top and more confusing than the dialogue of an episode of 'Deadwood' or the thick brogue in 'Trainspotting' but if you give it time it will come together and your mind will filter out what it needs to. I'm personally going to watch this at least 3 more times, once without commentaries and twice with just so I can try to piece this whole movie together. This film can be very confusing (including the twists) but it is creepy, incredibly exciting, realistic and like all good sci-fi has a strong moral message in the end. I would have given this film a 10 if i didn't think it was kind of overloaded with the technical jargon. Expand
  2. Aug 27, 2010
    10
    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.
  3. May 18, 2013
    7
    An independent film full of nice ideas but maybe without the budget to fully realise some of their potential. Nicely scripted, although I did find it a little too ‘wordy’ in places. Performance wise; both Shane Carruth and David Sullivan did an excellent job. The film hangs on these two characters and I thought they both pulled it off to an excellent standard! I found the film quiteAn independent film full of nice ideas but maybe without the budget to fully realise some of their potential. Nicely scripted, although I did find it a little too ‘wordy’ in places. Performance wise; both Shane Carruth and David Sullivan did an excellent job. The film hangs on these two characters and I thought they both pulled it off to an excellent standard! I found the film quite absorbing at first; there’s enough mystery there and I know enough about engineering for it to keep my interest. It did, however, become a little wearing towards the end, I think because the film relies so much on the dialogue between Aaron and Abe to tell the story and there is so much to take in that I found I was in ‘dialogue overload’ by the end. I think I’ll probably have to watch it again sometime to fully appreciate it, but well worth a look; it’s an interesting take on the time travel theme.

    SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

    My score: 7.1/10
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  4. Jun 22, 2011
    10
    (10.0) Awesome. The best Sci-fi serious in this century. How can you make a great movie with great head and a tight budget.
    Escuchar Waiting eagerly to the new work from me, since I saw this movie, new idol.
  5. Jan 25, 2012
    8
    Unsensational, clever, quietly scary, confusing sci fi with good acting to boot. I can't believe they made this film for $7000. I really liked the direction too.
  6. Jan 24, 2014
    8
    In today’s day and age, we throw around the phrase “mind-blowing” a lot (Cracked.com 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 frighteninglyIn today’s day and age, we throw around the phrase “mind-blowing” a lot (Cracked.com 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. Expand
  7. KenK.
    May 4, 2005
    9
    A very intersting, albeit sometimes confusing, science fiction film.
  8. BrianS.
    Jan 26, 2006
    10
    The best film of 2005. Probably the best sci-fi film of all time. Confusing at times, but that's what re-viewing is for and this movie demands it. Give it time to unfold and let it blow you away.
  9. VinceH.
    Oct 22, 2004
    9
    I had read a lot of film journals and press on this film ever since its premiere at Sundance in March or whenever, and had been highly anticipating it ever since. The reviews certainly did the film justice. This is the most maddening, incomprehensible and brilliant movie since the great year 2001 which gave us Donnie Darko, Memento, and Mulholland Drive. Oh, and this film makes those as I had read a lot of film journals and press on this film ever since its premiere at Sundance in March or whenever, and had been highly anticipating it ever since. The reviews certainly did the film justice. This is the most maddening, incomprehensible and brilliant movie since the great year 2001 which gave us Donnie Darko, Memento, and Mulholland Drive. Oh, and this film makes those as easy to understand as a Hilary Duff movie. Usually when people say you have to see a movie twice to "get it", they usually are being facetious. Primer actually DEMANDS a second viewing and even if playing close attention the film deliberitately plays with plot and chronology by using elliptical editing that jumps all over the place and re-plays certain scenes and moments wrapped up in other scenes that are then wrapped up in a different scene, i.e. you get the point. It is hard to tell when certain scenes end and begin and which characters are talking to others and in what time. All this sounds like crap now but those who have seen the film can relate. I can just imagine chat room and message board geeks analyzing and deconstructing every second of this film a la Donnie & Mulholland. Also, a little clue to help you figure out things in the end: Pay very close attention to when phones ring and who is calling... Expand
  10. MarilynW.
    Oct 12, 2004
    10
    With a limited budget, the cast and crew did a excelent job with what they had to work with. Had they had the extra money...you would be highly impressed. I think David Sullivan carried the movie the way that Shane Caruth wanted it portrayed. Congratulations all who had a hand in making this movie...it kept my interest and it made me pay attention to the detail, and ask questions and make With a limited budget, the cast and crew did a excelent job with what they had to work with. Had they had the extra money...you would be highly impressed. I think David Sullivan carried the movie the way that Shane Caruth wanted it portrayed. Congratulations all who had a hand in making this movie...it kept my interest and it made me pay attention to the detail, and ask questions and make me want to watch it again to answer those questions. Expand
  11. ChadS.
    Oct 18, 2005
    7
    "Primer" grows increasingly incomprehensible towards the end, so there's really no payoff to the first time we see one of the characters witnessing his double through his binoculars. But still, it's a kick to see a genuine independent film mostly transcend its shoestring budget with smart, albeit colorless dialogue, that doesn't dumb down the genre of science fiction like "Primer" grows increasingly incomprehensible towards the end, so there's really no payoff to the first time we see one of the characters witnessing his double through his binoculars. But still, it's a kick to see a genuine independent film mostly transcend its shoestring budget with smart, albeit colorless dialogue, that doesn't dumb down the genre of science fiction like so many of its predecessors. "Primer" works a filmic primer for people who think science fiction is all about spectacle. It's all about the box. The filmmaker probably didn't have the money to waste film on any filler like romantic subplots and government intervention. Expand
  12. Leo
    May 16, 2005
    8
    Wonderfully made... although it is very confusing most of the time. I actually think I need to see it again just to fully grasp the idea of this film.
  13. charlesc
    May 28, 2005
    10
    This movie takes some work on the part of the viewer to appreciate it. Here is one hint: there is more than one Abe and Aaron traveling in time. The movie is a study of the interaction between two nerdy guys who get into a project over their heads, but the story itself is a puzzle that must be figured out. Ingenious! And to all those aspiring critics out there: do not even think about This movie takes some work on the part of the viewer to appreciate it. Here is one hint: there is more than one Abe and Aaron traveling in time. The movie is a study of the interaction between two nerdy guys who get into a project over their heads, but the story itself is a puzzle that must be figured out. Ingenious! And to all those aspiring critics out there: do not even think about reviewing or critiquing this movie without giving it at least several viewings. Expand
  14. WilliamG.
    Jun 1, 2005
    8
    Made for a mere $7000, PRIMER travels back through time to when science-fiction made the viewer think. By working with the time-travel principle and losing any distracting special effects, the plot is all that matters, and it soon becomes a nearly-indicipherable puzzle. Star/writer/director Shane Carruth has even admitted that he hasn't figured the entire thing out yet. For being Made for a mere $7000, PRIMER travels back through time to when science-fiction made the viewer think. By working with the time-travel principle and losing any distracting special effects, the plot is all that matters, and it soon becomes a nearly-indicipherable puzzle. Star/writer/director Shane Carruth has even admitted that he hasn't figured the entire thing out yet. For being short and cheap, PRIMER manages to provide a buffet of food for thought, and in this day and age, that's priceless. Expand
  15. DavidK.
    Oct 10, 2006
    10
    Primer is a brilliant cinematic science fiction thriller! Unfortunately for the non-science enthusiast, the screenplay dialogue is absolutely overrun with swift moving unexplained techno-jargon that may unintentionally frustrate those viewers to the point of disappointment as they find themselves getting more and more lost between plot lines. But for everyone else, this spellbinding Primer is a brilliant cinematic science fiction thriller! Unfortunately for the non-science enthusiast, the screenplay dialogue is absolutely overrun with swift moving unexplained techno-jargon that may unintentionally frustrate those viewers to the point of disappointment as they find themselves getting more and more lost between plot lines. But for everyone else, this spellbinding sci-fi mystery thriller is a terrific must see film! It is a complete success, and an incredible achievement by both Shane Carruth and David Sullivan. Expand
  16. Susi
    Jul 19, 2006
    8
    Fantastic and demanding. Really enjoyed the visual framing and the very bald acting style/non-style. Even the storytelling, despite the frustrations with audibility and narrative patchiness. Thanks for a film so devoid of sentiment and so full of ideas. Not for everyone, but nor is any film and it's great to see something that credits the audience with a bit of intelligence and a few Fantastic and demanding. Really enjoyed the visual framing and the very bald acting style/non-style. Even the storytelling, despite the frustrations with audibility and narrative patchiness. Thanks for a film so devoid of sentiment and so full of ideas. Not for everyone, but nor is any film and it's great to see something that credits the audience with a bit of intelligence and a few ideas themselves. I'll be looking for Caruth's next outing - and re-viewing this one while we wait Expand
  17. DavidH.
    Sep 24, 2006
    10
    A modern-day masterpiece. The further the film progresses, the more fascinating and innovative it becomes. The this is the first feature film Carruth managed to make, lets hope it isn't the last.
  18. Mick
    Sep 10, 2007
    10
    One of the strangest viewing experiences i've had; it won't be for everybody!
  19. DanB.
    Oct 17, 2004
    10
    For the most part I have no idea what happens in this movie. But it is absolutely awesome and I loved it and talked about it for hours and still don't know what happened, and I'll have to see it again. Hot damn. I say, HOT damn! Indeed.
  20. JeffS.
    Jul 18, 2006
    10
    What at first appears to be bland dialogue between uninteresting characters begins to very cleverly remind us of the lengths that the film is going to establish a sense of realism. This science fiction film succeeds in its abandonment of cliche and hand-holder storytelling, and yeilds instead a glimpse into the real-world implications of such a mind-bending event. The characters are real What at first appears to be bland dialogue between uninteresting characters begins to very cleverly remind us of the lengths that the film is going to establish a sense of realism. This science fiction film succeeds in its abandonment of cliche and hand-holder storytelling, and yeilds instead a glimpse into the real-world implications of such a mind-bending event. The characters are real and flawed, and the eventual breakdown of clarity as a story device is brilliant. Expand
  21. TerryG.
    Dec 13, 2004
    10
    I was really impressed with this movie, especially the scene at the beginning with the over-lapping dialogue. I compare this film to La Jetee and asked the director about it. He said many ppl have told him that, but he actually didn't see La Jetee until after he had screened this movie at Sundance. Please remember that the premise of this movie is time travel which is a totally I was really impressed with this movie, especially the scene at the beginning with the over-lapping dialogue. I compare this film to La Jetee and asked the director about it. He said many ppl have told him that, but he actually didn't see La Jetee until after he had screened this movie at Sundance. Please remember that the premise of this movie is time travel which is a totally interesting thing, but you have to focus all your energy this movie can be draining. I did find I understood this movie alot more after discussing it with friends, but I'm scared to see it again for fear of getting lost in it. Expand
  22. Feb 11, 2013
    8
    Low budget for sure, but they do a great job with it. Creepy, compelling, confusing and paranoiac, a good little movie. Will appeal to fans of Phillip K Dick I imagine. I liked it a lot, the plot I think deliberately confusing and hard to follow, and it works well. That is the nature of time travel I guess, to the rest of us trapped in linear causality type existences.
  23. Jan 20, 2013
    8
    It's for the few. If you're not the type, it's only interesting as an experiment. If you can follow the film's logic and most of the plot, it's a succesful experiment. Gets special points for making something so intricate and special out of such simple props.
  24. Apr 17, 2013
    9
    Absolutely mind-blowing, and not because the plot is so engaging itself. Carruth spares the vernacular for scientific jargon and feels no remorse, and THAT is what is so intriguing. We don't want to watch it a thrid or fourth time because of the story. We watch it again and again because we want to know what the hell is going on.
  25. Xen
    Mar 19, 2012
    9
    interesting, at some points confusing, time-travel film. The acting wasn't great but they did the job and the premise of the film really did give it some sci-fi charm.
  26. Jun 29, 2012
    9
    A truly breathtaking science fiction film, Primer manages to avoid one of the major pitfalls when attempting to make a compelling science fiction film, and does so with some considerable swagger. Where so many of its forebears have been reluctant to challenge its audiences with scientific jargon, Primer refuses to compromise itself by 'dumbing down' its content. The film tells the story ofA truly breathtaking science fiction film, Primer manages to avoid one of the major pitfalls when attempting to make a compelling science fiction film, and does so with some considerable swagger. Where so many of its forebears have been reluctant to challenge its audiences with scientific jargon, Primer refuses to compromise itself by 'dumbing down' its content. The film tells the story of two friends who, whilst working from Aaron's (Shane Corruth) garage of a night building and selling JTAG cards, stumble across a technology that appears to move substances through time. It's true, for those without any particular scientific aptitude, this content becomes relatively complex and hard to follow. Nevertheless, this films delves deeper than this, posing many questions concerning the responsibilities that come with possessing unlimited power. However, if you are thinking the entanglement ends there, Primer has another ace up it's sleeve. With a plot that meanders more than a knotted snake, a repeat viewing becomes essential if you really intend to grasp the storyline in its fullness. A film in this mold is always likely to draw criticism due to its heavy plot lines and, at times, bewildering scientific concepts. Yet it is precisely here, in my opinion, that Primer acquires most of its gold stars. Intellectually stimulating and wonderful in its construction, Primer is science fiction in its purest form. Expand
  27. Jul 22, 2013
    10
    I think it was "Esquire" that called this the best sci-fi film since "2001." High praise, but right on the mark. This is a brilliant film that accomplishes what no time travel movie has ever done, focusing on the people rather than on the gimmick.
  28. Dec 7, 2013
    7
    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,
    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.
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  29. Dec 14, 2014
    10
    One of the best movies I've ever seen. A good time travel film free of the rubbish Hollywood normally injects into a film to try and draw in audiences.
  30. Jul 6, 2015
    9
    I have no clue what I just watched, but it was breathtaking. Two guys accidentally build a time machine, unaware that they might have already gone inside of it... that's all you need to know. Now go watch this masterpiece.
  31. Sep 23, 2014
    9
    Classic cult film and a must-see for anyone who likes strange plots full of twists. I needed watching it a couple of times before being able to fully grasp all details. Time travel, oh yes, like it or hate it, but there it is.
  32. Nov 15, 2014
    9
    If you are trying to absorb this film in the same fashion that you would a box office topping flick, you will be lost, and disappointed at the end. This plot does no "hand holding" and is as ambiguous as it is hard to follow in the first place. However, in its over-complexities, a light of genius shines in its ability to be an experience rather than a casual, two hour suspension fromIf you are trying to absorb this film in the same fashion that you would a box office topping flick, you will be lost, and disappointed at the end. This plot does no "hand holding" and is as ambiguous as it is hard to follow in the first place. However, in its over-complexities, a light of genius shines in its ability to be an experience rather than a casual, two hour suspension from reality. This indie thought provoking piece will grab your college degree and break it in half. While usually being thrown in with an "Inception" this film creates no basis of time or space to go off of. You control you're own interpretation of this film. People make charts and graphs on this movie just to understand what is happening and when. Truly a mentally challenging experience that is as strange as it is intriguing. Expand
  33. Aug 12, 2015
    10
    Primer is one of those movies that you should never watch once, as I fear a confused moviegoer will not understand the movie for their first time viewing, but maybe they may understand it a little bit on the second viewing. If not the second time maybe the third time. If you still don't get then well keep watching, because you might have missed something that's rather brilliant. That'sPrimer is one of those movies that you should never watch once, as I fear a confused moviegoer will not understand the movie for their first time viewing, but maybe they may understand it a little bit on the second viewing. If not the second time maybe the third time. If you still don't get then well keep watching, because you might have missed something that's rather brilliant. That's basically what I did when I first watch this movie as I felt that I came across something unique and something worth talking about. It's a bit like when Roger Ebert first came across 2001: A Space Odyssey and he felt like he came across something that's worth talking about and worth sharing.

    Primer in my opinion is one of the most intelligent and probably the best movie I've seen in years. This isn't the kind of movie where you sit back and turn off your brain, because you're not going to enjoy the experience as you don't understand what's going on and you will leave the movie feeling confused. I won't lie I watch the movie five times to gaps on whats going on and thank god I did because more and more I watch the movie, more I understand it and love it. Primer is worth checking out.
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Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 25
  2. Negative: 2 out of 25
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 88
    It is maddening, fascinating and completely successful.