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Primer

Year: 2004
Director: Shane Carruth
Producer: Shane Carruth
Writer: Shane Carruth
Cast: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan
This is an example of what must be the most fascinating sort of movie to me - before it was even over I knew it would be among my favourite films of the year, and yet I understood hardly any of it.

With a plot both so buried in the vernacular of the particular characters and hidden behind cloaks of crossing lines, it's the sort of film you'd have to watch five times with a pen and paper to understand the stream of the plot (undoubtedly the method the filmmakers used to create it).

It deals with two guys doing what millions of people around the world are trying to accomplish - working in their garage trying to put their grasp of a discipline to use to make a living. You don't often hear terms 'venture capital' and 'bring to market' in pop film lore but that's part of the mystique; it takes a slice of modern life we don't see much of and presents it so convincingly, in such stark realism and with every detail intact that it could well have been a documentary.

There wasn't a single filmmaking flourish in the whole thing, and not just in the stuff on screen like costuming and dialogue. The way it was scripted, the aesthetic used and the story executed; everything about it spoke to me and said 'this is the way it would really happen'.

It's a story about time travel, but there's not a flashing light, dinosaur or lightning bolt anywhere. It's two guys in a garage wearing ties trying to get a meeting with a company who can fund them. They build a machine that looks like a high school chemistry department device. When they discover something unexpected and try to decide how it works, they build a bigger one in a self-storage facility and use it on themselves.

Despite not being about DeLoreans or Morlocks, it is about paradoxes and the dangers of using knowledge of the future and how it affects the present. Part of the brilliance of the film is in the fact that you don't even understand how the time travel aspect fully works, but you appreciate fully that it does.

Somehow, they lock themselves in their machines in the self-storage garage, and can emerge straight away but hours later. They start by spending the day locked in a motel room disconnected from the world in terror at what sort of sleight against spacetime they could commit while their other selves are sleeping for hours in a self-storage facility.

Soon, when opportunity beckons, they move onto the local library to get the day's stock figures so their other selves will know what to buy when they come out and make them rich.

How does that work? I've still got no idea, and as I said, I'd have to watch the film a few more times and be ready with a whiteboard and the pause button to get it.

That's the beauty of the movie. You're never with it – it's always just beyond your grasp – how they travel through time, what they're saying and how it all fits together. But there's nothing about it not to love.

Things go awry when doubles of themselves appear from their various trips, and things soon become a morass that - from the end scene – becomes too dangerous for even them to deal with.

Everything about it - down to the end titles – is something you've never seen before. And to love a film so much when you don't know who anybody is, what they're talking about or what's going on is a unique success. Brilliant, in every single respect of filmmaking.

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