Sunday, October 01, 2006

Primer (first viewing)

Every time I read or hear a movie review or recommendation, I find it important to vet the source. I know certain people who only need say "that's worth seeing" and that's enough for me.

When I'm the one passing on a movie recommendation though, I usually like to know who I'm recommending it to, which is quite straight-forward down the pub. Unfortunately, the blogosphere doesn't offer that level of security, so it's with a certain trepidation that I'm reviewing a real rough diamond of a movie: 'Primer'.

So many films are churned out by Hollywood that are just not worth two hours of your life. Not much more than a two-second pitch made to Harvey Weinstein as he chomps on a fat cigar, many movies can literally be judged by their cover. I imagine Harvey sitting at the chair of a large, Dr. Evil style boardroom meeting, going round the table full of execs, each of them pitching a movie idea in turn, and Harvey just saying "next" until they stumble upon something they can sell: (Studio executive #16 looks quietly confident as his turn to pitch approaches. Number 15's pitch is rejected, it's his turn! He looks to Harvey and says: "Ok, Harvey.. how about... Bruce Willis... lifeguards!?" Harvey looks at #16, still chomping on his cigar. He stares directly at #16, and for a long tumbleweed moment the only sounds in the room are made by Weinstein, chewing his cud. Eventually he speaks: "Really? We haven't already made that!?". Before you can say 'Baywatch', the wheels of a $50 million dollar actioner are in motion... with "Coastguard" eventually described as "explosive" in "The Sun" and raking in a cool $200 million worldwide)

This may be a cynical view, but I also believe that there are more than enough good movies made for all the right reasons. (and a lot of these come from Hollywood too!). A good idea, well executed, will always triumph over hollywood veneer and marketing budgets. The movies that live longest in my memory are not the no-brainer actioners (although, let's be honest, I'm a sucker for a good one). No, for me, I need to engage with a film to the level of.. and stay with me here, this revelation may shock you... thinking about it afterwards!!

I'll always remember how I felt after watching "Twelve Monkeys" for the first time. I knew I loved the film, that wasn't in any doubt, but I also had the urgent need to understand what I had just seen. Much discussion followed my first viewing of Twelve Monkeys, and the decision was eventually made to watch it a second time. Primer is the first movie I've seen since then that has produced the same reaction... This movie requires your attention, that you think and listen while you watch.. and ultimately, demands that you watch it a second time. Not everyone enjoys this feeling however, and if you fit into that category, then you should definitely avoid this film.

Essentially, the story revolves around two guys who invent a device that allows them to travel backwards in time. They live through the day once, watching the stock market's ups and downs, and then travel back in time to 9 a.m. that same day, armed with the prescience of events to come. However, the act of sending yourself back in time is not a pleasant one, and there are rules. For example, temporal paradoxes, such as meeting yourself, should be avoided at all costs, as you may change events which, from your perspective, have already happened... still with me!?

However, the device splits the two men. Their ideas of how to use such a powerful machine form an ever-growing rift between them that becomes more and more obvious as the film progresses to each mind-bending plot twist.

Although Primer is a low-budget, poorly lit science fiction movie with no stars and below average acting. I'm still going to recommend it though, simply because despite all those things it still manages to be smart, gripping and entertaining, which is no mean feat!

The reason why I have 'first viewing' in the header of this post, is down to the fact that I know I will need to watch Primer a second time to fully understand it. Shane Carruth (writer, director, star, sound engineer, and apparently caterer) has crafted a real labour of love with this film. It moves confidently and at a relentless pace, leaving the audience trailing in its wake, and more than a little confused at times.

So you get the point, it's clever. But is it any good? Well, the short answer is that it's very good indeed. There are zero special effects in this film, all the trickery is in the script... and much trickery there is, oh yes... I imagine Carruth is tormented by people on a daily basis, asking him to explain each twist in this movie... and it serves him right, the smartarse!!

Verdict: clever sci-fi thriller, keeps you guessing, demands a second viewing
Result: 7/10

1 comment:

albacteria said...

hmm, the review was good, btw i liked ur conclusion

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