Some ordinary guys, working in their garage with bits scavenged from fridges, cars and unsuspecting employers, stumble on a device that could change the world. But are they ready for the implications?
This incredibly low budget film ($7000), with no special effects or big names, makes up for it with the script and acting. It’s unapologetically complicated – you won’t understand it properly first time through – and they deliberately chose not to simplify the story or add superfluous exposition to make the audience’s life easier, and the dialogue is shot through with abbreviations – as of course it would be.
The device they build has an effect on the passage of time, though figuring out exactly what it does takes a good portion of the film because the guys who built it don’t understand it themselves. At first it appears to follow the single-history model of time, until events are discovered to have changed. After that it gets really complicated, as multiple time travellers attempt to out-paradox each other.
But all good sci fi is about people rather than technology. These suit-wearing office drones with their petty little arguments and unsatisfying jobs are shown struggling to cope as their minds are forced to expand to comprehend what’s happening. Fear, mistrust and greed undermine their shallow friendships.
For its low budget and purist approach, Primer is a more realistic depiction of time travel and scientific discovery in general than any you’ll find in the mainstream: confusing, messy and landing on those who are completely unprepared for it.