By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated March 17, 2020 at 03:03 AM EDT
  • Movie

In his alluringly knotty feature debut Primer, writer-director Shane Carruth dramatizes the what-if-and-why-not business of scientific discovery so that the process looks arcane and sexy but also mundane and accessible. The movie was a natural, in other words, for the prize it won this year at Sundance in the realm of ”advancing science and technology in film.” That this coolly ragged, adventurous project — shot on Super 16 in home kitchens and garages, packed with shoptalk, as lightly disembodied as a dream — also won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize attests to Carruth’s skill in the realm of low-budget, big-idea storytelling.

And really, the surprise scientific breakthrough effected by industrial engineers Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Carruth) couldn’t be bigger. Yet even when they stumble upon a moment of cosmic eureka!, the two unspool their entrancingly dense dialogue in mild voices — a couple of interchangeable colleagues at work in a perfectly chosen neutral environment. The contrast adds to the movie’s dry verve: Consider Primer a successful lab experiment with, as they might say in techie chat rooms, significant indie-cred applications, IMHO. Oh, and :-).


  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 78 minutes
  • Shane Carruth