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Primer (2004)

April 25, 2013

Writer/Director Shane Carruth’s followup Upstream Color has seemed to ignite an apologists stance in some reviewers who suggest Primer is the colder, more plot-driven predecessor; but I felt at the time and still feel that his debut is a wisely humanizing piece of lo-fi sci-fi that keeps us on the same emotional page as the characters, if not necessarily the plot, and to an effect of staggering accomplishment considering the complexity of their concerns in the finale and how simply and pointedly Carruth brings them across.

Even as a first feature, the settings and aesthetics float in well-tied synchronicity with the feel and concept of the story as a modern-day discovery of logic-bending science; perverting settings like garages, storage units, gas stations, fountains, and basketball courts as the engineer leads figure out the time-bending parable they accidentally unraveled for themselves. The plot is slowly chiseled out of the leads penchants for details and experimentation, only to find them quickly over their own heads in confusing paradoxes and unfortunate debacles of emotion, betraying themselves, each other, and their scientific method. That the exact details have to be speculated and mapped out to be fully known is beside the point, as the chief concerns in the end are the characters, opposite of where they started, faulted for flying too high and risking too much, still in pursuit of something bigger than themselves. The film isn’t so much a Rubik’s cube of plot points and chronology, as much as it is an accurately complex chart of human folly at the hands of their self-made God.

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