Abe is part of a young technology consortium who operate out of a Dallas garage. Making a discovery he feels is important, he shares it with colleague Aaron. When put into Abe’s machine, a toy Weeble is seen to grow a covering of mould which would have usually taken years to build up. Abe believes the Weeble has travelled in an infinite time-loop. He builds a larger version, one capable of accommodating a human being. Venturing to test the machine on himself, he later tells Abe how it can be used to travel back in time six hours, allowing the user to make stock purchases to their advantage, knowing how shares and bonds will move by the end of trading. The machine obviously works but Aaron realises there are side-effects. He starts to bleed from his orifices, and his mobile phone rings where there are, in theory, two Aaron’s on the Earth, but at different times. Having approached wealthy businessman Thomas Granger in a bid to secure funding from him to take their experiments further, they realise that Granger himself has been using the machine without supervision, but when they try to quiz him on what he has been doing Granger collapses into what seem to be a complete vegetative coma. Abe and Aaron start to mistrust each other, each suspecting the other is going to betray them, and they start to use the machine to try to manipulate the present to their own advantage. Aaron’s situation escalates when he is met in the present by himself, in a time loop, and drugged and locked in an attic. Abe tries to intervene in a party, which had turned violent and involved Granger’s daughter Rachel, but suddenly realises that there is more than one of himself walking the Earth, and Aaron is still missing.
Of course if Shane Carruth could master the camera then he’d have a clean sweep.... Time travel movies are shot-through with anomalies, so much so that the problems of time paradoxes are beautifully challenged in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,
when the time-traversing hero is presented an explanation for the riddles and obstacles of temporal shifting until his eyes cross. Initially shot for what was reported as $7,000, although a digital clean-up of both picture and sound for theatrical release would have largely increased this, Carruth’s film is dialogue heavy, and since Carruth was essentially a mathematician and an engineer before embarking on Primer, his inexperience is betrayed in very static scenes where jargon and formula-centric dialogue is to the fore in explaining the plot, the intricacies of which are amazingly detailed, to the level where you believe that Carruth has probably worked this out to the last minutae and may actually have a time-travelling gizmo in his shed.... Some of the time paradoxes have been touched on in films before, such as the idea of one person existing in two places at the same time, or the possibility of meeting one’s self (as messily shown by Ron Silver in Timecop
), and the intricacies of multiple time-strands so knotted Back To The Future III
that a scene was added where the circularity of the plot was shown by drawing diagrams in the sand. Primer
never goes that far, which may have made it a bit more accessible, and it is obviously limited to a more cerebral sci-fi audience, i.e. fans of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi,
general viewers being almost certain to get lost under the blizzard of scientific terms, theories, and general gobbledygook. Carruth is to be commended for what he has done on a rock-bottom budget, but the next time he makes a movie could he let a little more of the audience in on the story?