Critics Consensus

Dense, obtuse, but stimulating, Primer is a film for viewers ready for a cerebral challenge.



Total Count: 127


Audience Score

User Ratings: 46,394
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Movie Info

The debut feature from filmmaker Shane Carruth -- who wrote, directed, photographed, edited, scored, and stars -- Primer is a psychological sci-fi thriller about a group of four tech entrepreneurs. Toiling away in a garage, the quartet have successfully created error-checking systems for their clients. But their recent work seems to have created an unexpected and seemingly impossible side-effect. Suddenly, two members of the group realize they are in possession of a device that can double, or perhaps even quadruple, the space-time continuum of anything that enters it. What at first seems like a windfall of astronomical proportions eventually proves to be much more than they bargained for, as the duo attempt to manipulate time to their financial -- and emotional -- benefit. Also starring Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, and Carrie Crawford, Primer premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the coveted Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

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Jay Butler
as Metalshop Worker
John Carruth
as Man on Couch No. 1
Juan Tapia
as Man on Couch No. 2
Samantha Thomson
as Rachel Granger
Jack Pyland
as Aaron's Co-Worker
Keith Bradshaw
as Clean Room Technician
Ashok Upadhyaya
as Laboratory Technician
Chip Carruth
as Thomas Granger
Jon Cook
as Will's Cousin
David Joyner
as Rachel's Date
Eric de Soualhat
as Translator
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Critic Reviews for Primer

All Critics (127) | Top Critics (35)

Audience Reviews for Primer

  • Jun 08, 2018
    8/06/2018 - I actually saw this film a couple of years ago, and thought it was quite good. But after my re-watch i learned this is not a good movie. The acting is pretty bad, the script incoherent babble. I liked the plot, but 99% of the audience is going to be left confused at the end, and that can never be a good thing.
    Peter B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 26, 2017
    With a 7,000 dollar budget and completely unknown actors all-around, Primer is the mere definition of a small-budgeted indie feature. It's also incredibly complicated and technically brilliant considering Shane Carruth's (director, producer, writer, editor, composer, and actor) comprehensive knowledge in mathematics and engineering. Which is one of the things that makes Primer so special, it's originality. It's a nice mix of a Christopher Nolan non-liner structured script, a David Lynch style tone, and the science & imagination of a James Cameron film. For a first feature, I'm not sure I can give a higher praise. Unfortunately, it's not always the easiest film to follow as Carruth rarely ever takes the time for exposition. At the same time a film like this, which already has a slower pace, probably would do worse with several exposition scenes. What the film does, however, is provide fascinating propositions for what time travel could look and feel like. It's not as simple as Back to the Future nor as expansive as Interstellar, but it is very personal. And with a film that mostly focuses on two best friends, the personal approach is obviously beneficial. With all that said, I think the limitations prevent this from being an instant classic. I'd like to see Carruth revisit the ideas and themes and make a bigger budgeted feature. That way, he could make the film longer and more in-depth. Just as a pure sci-fi fan, there's a lot to like about a film that reinvents how to tell a cerebral story in new and interesting ways. Overall though, Primer is an unforgettable film. 7.8/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Oct 06, 2015
    Primer is tough to give three stars to; it feels like it ought to be more. It is very different and has upstart indie spirit. But IMO, Primer does not do enough of a job telling the story and leaves too much work to the viewers (a lot information is simply missing, as opposed to open to interpretation). If you enjoyed the TV series Lost, how it leaves things unexplained, then this probably will not bother you. For myself, I enjoyed both Primer and Lost, but at the same time felt dissatisfied. Nonetheless, if you are at all curious, I recommend it.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 01, 2014
    Well executed thriller, Primer is a film that manages to use a simple concept to create a picture, and it boasts a small cast as well, and an interesting story. I enjoyed the film for what it was; and felt that the filmmakers were able to make something quite interesting with the idea that they used to make the film. Primer isn't perfect, and at times it feels like it had plenty of potential to be so much more as well, and I think that if the director would have rewritten the script and changed a few things around, then maybe, the film would have really stood out. As a whole, the film is only really worth seeing once, as it doesn't necessitate multiple viewings. However, for what it is, it's a well made low budget feature that has some good performances, an interesting story and good direction to make things interesting for the viewer. Primer could have been so much more in terms of a thriller, and who knows what this film could have been if the script would have been slightly reworked. As it stands, this is a good movie, one that is unique in the way that it uses its concept, but it's far from the film that it could have been. This is worth seeing if you enjoy low budget indie picture, and for the most part, it's a skillfully crafted affair and it's entertaining, but you do end up wanting more out of the film, especially due to its short run time. Genre fans might enjoy this one, but for anyone else, you'll surely want more out of the film.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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