Primer fan commentary

Since Shane Carruth's second film, Upstream Color, is coming out very shortly, interest in his first film, Primer, is on an uptick right now. I've written two articles about this film before, but now seemed like a good moment to revisit the film.

Here is my commentary track. Start the commentary first, then start the film when you're told to. Apologies in advance for my silly accent, occasional mispronunciations, creaky office chair and low-quality borrowed microphone.

Back to Time
Back to Things Of Interest

Discussion (45)

2013-02-16 02:14:14 by Tom:

An authoritative and reassuring accent.With undertones of a knowledgeable and humorous personality. Not silly at all. I shall definitely listen to the rest of this next time i watch primer. Cheers!

2013-02-16 04:28:54 by Steven:

Great commentary, definitely cleared up a lot of stuff during the movie, I had no idea about all the things that happened in the original time line.

2013-02-16 18:13:47 by Phil:

Thank you for great commentary and analysis. You cleared up some thing for me that I have been stuck on.

I do have to laugh at your comparison between this movie and "Back to the Future". In my humble opinion that is like comparing Wall-E with 2001 A Space Odyssey.

2013-02-16 23:25:45 by qntm:

The comparisons are instructive. The differences in storytelling approach were useful to contrast.

Also, both Wall-E and 2001: A Space Odyssey are speculative works dealing with the future progression of the human race, the nature of artificial intelligence and the waltz-like dance of deep space travel.

2013-02-17 01:22:17 by Cory:

Great commentary. It's always interesting to hear perspective from other people.

One mistake (I think): when Abe first explains the box to Aaron outside the storage facility, you have the two Abes backward. The one who's walking into the storage facility should be the younger Abe.

2013-02-21 06:05:11 by ConnerAnderson:

Well done commentary, I enjoyed it. In a quietly intellectual sort of way.

Since I live in Dallas where this movie was filmed, I am hoping to be able to find the locations of filming and get some photos. I know that the brief rooftop shot near the end has a building I recognize in it, putting it along Dallas North Tollway north of LBJ. The shot where they are eating in front of an airport is probably beside Addison Airport. I am fairly confident I will be able to locate the basketball court, and maybe the bench if my theory is correct. If I do, I'll take some pictures and post the information here.

EDIT: The unique building in that quick shot at about 1:04 is at 15455 Dallas Pkwy

2013-02-21 06:22:57 by ConnerAnderson:

Found the bench with Google maps.
I can't tell what balcony Abe looks off of because of the trees. You can use Google Street View to see the bench itself.

2013-02-21 06:42:27 by ConnerAnderson:

Wow, this is easier than I thought it would be. The u-haul place is here:
The main room is probably on the lower level, due to the office and sunlight glare in the back. (The movie may have mentioned it too) If I feel particularly adventurous/nerdy some day, I may pay a visit.

2013-02-22 22:54:55 by Omni:

Brilliant commentary/excuse to watch primer again.

2013-03-22 22:18:31 by Moose:

Great commentary. It occurs to me now, after much discussion about this movie with many people, because you mention them both placing their hands into the first machine, that their hands, possibly at the subatomic level, are slightly 'out of time', and this causes the handwriting issues we see later. A bit like the problem of speaking into a microphone when you hear your voice in the headphones slightly delayed (causes you to slur).

2013-03-28 05:55:31 by Esquire:

Forget about your "silly accent" and "creaky office chair," apologize for the constant audible gulps. Leave it to a Brit to do fan commentary while getting sauced.

But thanks for the otherwise fun commentary.

2013-03-29 18:15:10 by qntm:

Beer is nice. I'm not sorry.

2013-03-31 01:36:59 by Derek:

I really enjoyed the commentary, it's great for the third or fourth viewing. Thanks!

2013-04-14 06:43:08 by Kennedy:

I've always been suspicious of Aaron "forgetting" he had his cell phone.

2013-05-24 04:40:02 by Rachel:

Thank you so much for your commentary and the articles written to explain this. It was hard to listen to your commentary while i rewatched the movie, so i instead, I watched 10 minutes of movie and then listened to the 10 minutes of commentary and then read the article you wrote up to the point in the movie I was at and then repeat. I now fully understand everything that was confusing earlier and i appreciate this movie even more

i have never spent 4 hours dedicated to a movie like this.

hour 1ish = watching movie first time
hour 2 = reading online about what happened until i found this site
hour 3 + 4 = rewatching movie, listening to commentary, reading your article and understanding it!


2013-05-25 21:22:09 by Marie:

* Watched movie "Primer" ... hmmm
* google "explain movie Primer" ... ooooohh
* re-watched with audio and closed captioning ... aaahh
* re-watched with CC only and your commentary ... aha!

Entertaining in less than 24 hour period. Thank you. Lovely accent, chair creaks not so bad, and great insights. Well done

2013-06-14 22:26:24 by Scott:

Hi Sam! I have been a fan of Primer since I first watched it about 6 years ago. I got in the mood recently and just watched it again last night, for either the 3rd or 4th time (can't remember). After my second time watching it, I read an article which included a timeline that was pretty similar to the well known timeline explanation. That helped some but of course I still didn't fully grasp it yet. So I approached it last night with my detective's hat on, still trying to piece it together in my mind. I paused and rewatched several sections of the movie multiple times, particularly the Granger sequence. After the movie was over, I felt like I had a slightly better understanding of it, but was still confused. So I foraged over the timeline graph (which helped immensely) and also found your website. So I'm planning on watching it at least 2 more times relatively soon: once with the subtitles, and again with your commentary track.

But before I do that, I wanted to present to you an alternate possibility of what happens to "Hooded Aaron" at the end of the movie. In your previous written explanation, you say "Hooded Aaron hangs up, and begins construction on a time machine the size of a warehouse. The End."

However, what he is building could likely be something else entirely. What I haven't seen very much discussion of about this movie is the other application that their invention could be used for: An "Age accelerator". Remember the weeble experiments where Abe says that "about every 5 days" they are seeing 5 to 6 years worth of fungal growth on the Weeble. During the discussion between Abe and Aaron of the possible applications of the technology (and presumably after Abe-prime has already built his boxes and is gently breaking it to Aaron), Abe says "The weeble is dumb", or something to that effect.

But is it really? I don't think so. I can think of multiple real-world applications for this type of invention that would be practical and could be used commercially.

Below is just a small list I've come up with already today. It seems like if Abe/Aaron were wise, they would patent this technology and license it to major corporations who would benefit from this kind of technology. They could make billions easily. They could have done this to fund more cautious research on time travel. ;)

1) Wine/Cheese/Diamonds - This comes to mind first, things that require time to "age to maturity". Instead of waiting weeks or years (depending on the kind of cheese/wine), imagine being able to produce it very quickly. I'm sure the Wine/cheese/etc companies would pay tons of money to be able to use this kind of technology, since it would ramp up their factory output exponentially. Same for creating artificial diamonds, although I think this kind of thing is already possible. There are of course always the ethical implications of creating artificial diamonds and wondering whether it would cause the market to collapse.

2) Cooking / brewing - Imagine an oven that is inside a "box". Sure, microwave ovens are nice, but what about being able to cook something inside a convection oven in what the user perceives as only a few seconds. For example a dish that normally takes 30 minutes to cook inside a regular convection oven could be put inside the "box oven", press a few buttons and a few seconds later, out comes a full lasagana or a perfectly baked pizza. Also along the same lines this could be used for people who brew their own beer. You put the wheat and yeast in a mug and stick it in a microwave sized device, press a few buttons and a second later out comes a perfectly brewed beer to your exact specifications. Breweries could benefit from this too by being able to experiment with different formulas much more quickly.

3) Inexpensive supercomputing - This is potentially a lot more interesting :) Imagine, if you are able to send an object "into the future" for an indeterminate period of time, you could put a relatively inexpensive computer into it running a program, but the output you receive in the same amount of "subjective time" the computer is in there would be equivalent to that of a supercomputer. Essentially you are multiplying computer processing power by a magnitude of 1000 (or about 1300, right?). Imagine there was some way to communicate with the processors inside the box wirelessly, then the results could be communicated in realtime. There would probably be some bottlenecking issues due to the time differential, but for massive calculations like the kind of things supercomputers and distributed computing does, I don't think this would pose too much of a problem. It would make much more powerful computers available to the average person, and the scientists could create inconceivably faster computers by putting already-supercomputers into the box and making them 1300 times faster :)

4) False Antiques - Similar to artificial diamonds.. Artificial antiques could be created by making things weathered much more quickly than naturally. You could even set up an artificial ecosystem (inside a large enough box, such as warehouse-sized) with small animals (ants, for example), that would continue to thrive and create new generations of themselves inside the "artificially inflated timeline" of the Age accelerator.

5) Medicine - Speaking of life/generations, think of the benefit science and medicine could gain from being able to accelerate generations of lab-rats and use it to study disease much quicker than naturally possible

6) Torture - You could put someone in the box for 5 minutes and they would have already been inside for subjectively 4 days (approximately). Deprive them of food/water/light or whatever need be. Could definitely be used by governments to get information from terrorists quickly. This could save many lives.

7) Much more! I've probably only scratched the surface of the applications of this

So, in conclusion, if Aaron/Abe were so greedy that they wanted to use this invention for monetary gain, wouldn't the age accelerator be a much more logical choice because it could be sold and licensed to make legitimate products, instead of the much more risky time machine? No paradoxes to worry about, and consistent products that can always be sold to willing customers.
Using the whole stock market/gambling thing couldn't last forever because they would eventually get caught.


I propose the possibility that at the end of the movie, Hooded Aaron finally comes to his senses and decides to build a warehouse sized Age-Accelerator. Actually it could probably be used for both Age acceleration and time travel, depending on the setting.

.... Aaaanyway :)

Yep, I'm sure I'll have more to write you after I watch your commentary track. But I just wanted to say "thank you" for the "independent research" you have put into this film... It's more than a film, is a "community thought-experiment." :)


2013-06-27 17:34:56 by Antonis:

I'll keep it short and simple, english is not my mother language and if i try to overanalyze i'll probably mess up.

Can you explain to me why Abe and Aaron don't age according to the formula (~)1300*[trip duration] every time they use the box to travel back in time, like the weeble does? Does it have something to do with them using the machine only to travel back in time? (from point B-->A instead of A-->B or B-->B)?


2013-08-02 22:11:24 by Darkdaxter:

Thanks for this commentary and the article. I listened to the commentary alone after I watched the movie twice (second with captioning) and then read your article. I agree with you in that I think the inside of the machine is probably safe, and that it is entering and exiting it that is harmful. The electromagnetic field must be extraordinarily strong while it's running, as is evidenced when Aaron exits it too early. It also opens up the possibility of radioactive particles looping through the machine as well, but I think the Argon might make it less likely.

@Antonis This can be explained by the cul-de-sac analogy. Think of a stereo system with too much sound input. It creates a screeching noise, sound feedback. It then loops back and forth between the source and the amplifier, getting louder and louder until one of them explodes. This is why the weeble aged so much longer. Recall that they travel through time in a parabola. They only travel backwards once (back to the Aend), whereas the weeble bounces back and forth continuously experiencing the same amount of time over and over as a result.

@ConnorAnderson That is really cool, hopefully one day I'll be able to visit where they filmed as well.

@Kennedy Me too, even when I first saw it. I'm pretty sure he brought it to deliberately test out which time travel model their universe worked under.

@Moose I don't think it's because their hands are unbounded in time. What they essentially did was place their hands into an extremely strong electromagnetic field (which is why the paper punch-outs direct themselves along the field lines. Normally this does nothing (and there is currently no substantial evidence for it causing damage or cancer), however consider this in conjunction with the feedback loop (essentially a worm hole with both ends closed so that the radiation feedback cannot force it to explode (much like the amp in the sound analogy earlier (thank you Into the Universe with Steven Hawking!)). It's important that only one end is open at a time because of this.

So instead of just subjecting their own hands to the field for a few seconds, the feedback loop made these few seconds recursively effect their hands for who knows how long. I propose that this actually weakened their hands and accelerated the age of their hands, slightly ahead of the rest of their body permanently. I suspect the bones in their hands are actually becoming more brittle slightly faster than the rest of their body.

@Scott Those are all very good applications I'd never thought of. However, I think that even in use as an age accelerator, it's time machine capabilities would become obvious to observers. Remember how the weeble sometimes entered and exited at Bend? The effects would be the same with any object. Even if the object were put onto a sliding plate, an observer could easily pull it out the opposite end, or work out the statistical anomaly and realize what was happening and exploit it. I think it could only be used for such applications if the Aend's door was taken out entirely. Even so, an enterprising scientist would likely figure it out eventually. Besides, I can't think of much good a warehouse-sized time machine or age-accelerator could do.

There are still so many open-ended questions...
Why did Aaron Prime use fail-safe A in the first place?

Why did Thomas use the time machine to follow them, and how long had he been inside it? Could he have possibly been in it longer than four days?

Why is Abe 2 so obsessed with stopping their Prime's from building the machines? Why does he want to go back further?

What are Aaron 2 and 3 planning on doing with their machines?

Aaron told Will the meeting was moved, Will misses the meeting... what does this change? Why did Aaron lie?

My guess is that Rachel was originally killed or severely injured. I think Aaron and Abe possibly discussed changing the past, and Thomas likely overheard them (or they told him to console him).

2013-08-05 23:54:56 by Spoonbender:

As we can assume, Rachel Granger must have been killed (or severely injured) on the timeline where Thomas Granger entered the box. Will's cousin must have killed her long after the party (but before Thomas entered the box), which is why getting Will's cousin to jail is so important (and simply stopping him at the party isn't enough).

IMO, we can put an educated guess as to why Granger gets comatose, as follows:
1. As stated by Abe, you need to wait for the box to "cool down" before exiting (watch the clock, "trust the math" etc.), and exit at the right time, otherwise you get the "static shock" (implies damage). As we learn (from Aaron's response "that is not a static shock"), the "sooner" you leave the box ("earlier" from the PoV of the man inside the box, "later" from our PoV) - the more "shock" (damage) you get, in a proportional manner.
2. Thomas used one of the "regular" boxes (not the failsafe). The regular boxes have been running for a while (from Granger's PoV), as we learn from Abe and Aaron's conversation Abe was woken by the car alarms.
3. Granger leaves the box LONG before the cooldown (long after the activation, in our PoV). This does incredible damage to his body, eventually causing his coma.

2013-10-03 05:28:06 by Cat:

Hey, loved the commentary. But at the start you said it had some plot holes. I would love to hear them. Thank you.

2013-10-23 03:19:50 by SomeGuy:

Excellent commentary. Thank you.

2013-10-26 20:21:43 by HenrySoggin:

Will you be providing an insight into "Upstream Colour" ?

2013-10-27 10:00:04 by qntm:

The literal events of Upstream Colour are not too difficult to unscramble for the alert. Wikipedia's plot summary is pretty much on the money. As for what figuratively happens in that film, I don't have a very well-formed theory.

2014-01-11 14:10:20 by Jerry:

Thanks for the great analysis, it made the movie completely clear.


And quote: "6) Torture [...] Could definitely be used by governments to get information from terrorists quickly. This could save many lives. "

What kind of mentality do you have to have to think that torture is in any way an option? Save lives? Are you that delusional? Maybe if your government stopped bombing people, people wouldn't want to blow you up. Jack Bauer does not exist and 24 was just propaganda. Have some empathy and humanity.

2014-08-12 17:38:06 by Thomas:

Has the link to commentary been removed?

2015-01-10 17:47:05 by The Blue Weeble:

Some of the many things Sam got wrong and/or didn't follow up on:

-Sam mentions there are plot holes, but never points one out or how "to get around them."

-The voicemail is NOT from an Aaron to an Aaron. It's from an Aaron to an Abe.

-Abe does NOT work at the CoreTech Semi with Aaron (neither do Phillip and Robert). At least, nothing in the film indicates that they do. To the contrary, actually.

-The pen in space story is in fact wrong, that's correct, BUT, it demonstrates what these people are all about: getting it done with the bare minimum and safety be damned. It's apropos of their attitude.

-Sam mentions that Aaron has "no problem ripping stuff off from work" when talking about his ethics. But he misses the bigger issue, which is its not just about stealing superconductors from CoreTech Semi, but rather that he is concealing it from Phillip and Robert (presumably to charge them for the superconductors later).

-the fact that they put their hands over the array early on is not the reason they can't write well later on.

-the aspergillus ticor protein buildup is NOT a natural byproduct of time travel, but rather planted by Aaron either to prod Abe along in his efforts or as a joke. The "fellow with the glasses" even hints at this when he says "it IS a joke," and looks at Aaron, who looks away. How do we know that? Several reasons. The box is flooded with Argon which would prevent fungus growth. Their watches do not get fungus on them. Abe says "what did you do to this thing? Looks like a dog digested it" and Aaron changes the subject. Their bodies do not get fungus on them. It was a joke and/or Aaron's method of helping Abe conclude the machine is a time machine

-Time travel exists before Sam says it did, i.e., before Abe comes out on to the roof.

-Sam misses two big points: Aaron's failsafe goes back substantially farther than the original monday AND Abe has relived at least that monday SEVERAL times. For instance, that's how he knows "there's always leaks" and it "feels like static shock" and has clearly done several runs and has figured out the best time to get in/out.

-Aaron does not "let his double go on living his life with his family." No no no. He is actually stealing his double's life. The double is locked in the attic and he usurped his double's life.

-Granger is not "incredibly ill" from coming back in the time machine. He is "comatose" because he is a paradox. It has nothing to do with how much time Granger spent in the box. This mistake really demonstrates that Sam doesn't fully grasp this film, especially given that the movie almost directly tells you this.

-Aaron does not come back because "he holds himself responsible" for what happened at the party.

Sam gets an A for effort, but like many, many others, he thinks he's got it all figured out but fails to grasp critical details. It's too bad that all you have to do is record a fan commentary and then 95% of listeners assume you're an authority on the subject.

2015-01-11 00:03:41 by qntm:

I disagree with some of your points (about their hands, and Granger being a paradox and some others) but you've said a lot that I hadn't thought of. I'll keep it all in mind next time I watch the film.

2015-01-22 02:42:07 by The Blue Weeble:

Hey Sam. I appreciate your open mindedness, especially cus I was pretty strong with my word choices. I respect a person who doesn't just dig in and be all vitriolic defending their position when challenged, but rather says "hey, I haven't thought about that... I'll think about it."

That's the beauty of this incredible film!!

I do think I'm right about Granger being a paradox. Aaron can't get close to Granger without passing out. This leads me to believe something Aaron did lead to Granger coming back, leading to a paradox where Granger "shouldn't" exist. This is supported by the line "from that, they deduced the problem was recursive." If it was just Granger being tired from the trip, or getting shocked from getting out too early, why would Aaron be effected by getting close to him?

As for the hands, I admit I do not have an answer. The film does not say. I just don't believe that them putting their hands over the array for less than 20 seconds would have that effect. Their whole bodies spent DAYS maybe WEEKS or more in the box. If 10-20 seconds effected their hands, shouldn't their bodies be more messed up than one single bloody ear? I'll grant you that they had their hands over a OLD (very unsafe) version of the machine, but intuitively it just doesn't sit right with me. In absence of a clear answer, I value your guess, but I disagree. I'll perhaps post my theory on the hands at a later time.

Ciao, mate, and all Primer fanatics!

2015-01-25 22:30:18 by The Blue Weeble:

Here is Caruth's own explanation of the Granger incident from the Village Voice in 2004:

Can you elaborate on the concept of recursion in terms of time-travel paradoxes?
"I have a degree in math and my favorite subject was non-linear dynamics. You have an equation y = x, and you take that answer and feed it right back in for x, and you chart this and sometimes you get fractals and sometimes you get orderly systems. The idea of recursion and whatever it leads to—that informed a lot of the story, the idea of creating a feedback loop. This isn't really addressed in the film, but the reason Granger is unconcious is because he's suffering from recursion. What I think happened is that Abe told Granger about the machine. This man who's been told by Abe about the machine uses the machine to come back and somehow has an interaction with Abe so that now Abe probably won't tell him about the machine and yet he still finds himself there. Without coming out and saying it, the film is built on the idea that these paradoxes are a way to understand things. The universe is not going to explode or break down if you create a paradox. Whatever's going to break is probably going to be you."

This was posted on the main Primer discussion thread on your own site, Sam. I think it's pretty clear that the author thinks Granger is messed up due to paradox/recursion and not a long trip or getting out too early.

The chap that posted this info in the other thread went on to point out how Carruth's own theory is flawed:

"So Granger is struck into a comatose state because his interaction with Abe "breaks" his personal timeline. He can't be there if he prevents the event that sends him back; he is a paradox. Rather than getting "erased from existence" as in a movie like Back to the Future or Jumper, he gets struck into a coma.

The problem is that this explanation -- from the horse's mouth -- is disregarded by the final scenes. Aaron2 has created a recursive paradox by drugging Aaron1 and stuffing him in the attic for 4 days (*note that he probably had to drug him repeatedly, hence the scuffling sounds from the attic during the week, and why Aaron1 is able to get out of the attic on the final Monday observed - his dose hasn't been renewed). Aaron1 cannot have found and used the first failsafe box if he was drugged in the attic. Aaron2 should have fallen into a coma as soon as he got near Aaron1. Also, Aaron3 has created a paradox SIMPLY BY COMING BACK. His interaction with Aaron2 ensures that Aaron2 (hoodie Aaron) will NEVER get into the failsafe on Friday, since Aaron2 left town. Aaron3 should have been struck comatose at that moment.

Caruth intended to use the Granger incident to show the effect of paradoxes using his operable theory of time travel; and as a catalyst for the films final scenes and big reveal. Instead, it actually broke the coherence of his narrative."


2015-01-27 11:32:54 by Micheru:

I wonder if you are still monitoring this website and comments in 2015.
Bought a copy of Primer from a video shop selling up all their stocks before closing down. I was pretty excited because I had seen it numerous times but did not own a copy. It has not aged a day and is as fresh, compelling and intreging as ten years ago. I have just watched it and then found your commentary. Thanks very much. Enjoyed it a lot and enhanced my viewing - you Australian ? Well done.

2015-01-27 11:44:48 by Micheru:

Oh by the way - I have a theory about the hand writing that sort of came to me from visiting the old video shop. There were piles of old VHS tapes and I thought of that thing when subsequent generations of tapes were made, the quality declines with each generation. Maybe their control and quality of their fine motor skills, in particular their hand writing, degraded with each subsequent copy of themselves like the old videos.

2015-06-14 06:13:39 by Pumpkineck:

You said start the movie now. I watched and listened for maybe 30 mins and you just talked and talked about everything from back to the future ect ect except for what's happening on screen. I don't think this complements the film really and should just be listened to separate. Do it again and perhaps address the film as it plays if real time commentary is your intent.

2015-06-26 19:51:41 by Jonathan:

You mentioned plot holes, but then didn't say what they were. Could you elaborate?

2015-06-26 20:45:09 by Jonathan Fesmire, Author:

So, I'm sure other people have deduced this, but I have a theory on why Granger came back in time... perhaps the only reason he would.

In his timeline, Rachel's ex-boyfriend ended up murdering Rachel. He likely also killed Arron or Abe, and fatally wounded the other, probably because they tried to subdue him. Maybe it was at a party, or maybe Arron and Abe took their partners on a double date. Let's say Arron lived, for the sake of this theory, though it could have been either. Also, Arron is slightly more the main character than Abe, so this makes narrative sense.

The ex-boyfriend is subdued, and Arron makes a phone call to tell Granger what happened, and about the time machines, so that Granger can go back and stop all this from happening. (Why not tell him about the failsafe? Perhaps because he figured their selves in the new version of reality would need it, or perhaps because Aaron was afraid the effects on Granger would be too much if he used the failsafe from that point.)

Granger then goes back in time to prevent this horrible event. He then watches Abe and Arron for a bit, wondering how to approach them, feeling discombobulated from the time travel. When Arron approaches him, Granger runs, as this is too much to handle.

The rest we know from the movie.

So, Arron's reasoning for getting the ex-boyfriend arrested is truly justified. The ex-boyfriend would have killed her in the future if not for their intervention.

2015-07-21 19:26:34 by slim:

I have a question. How would the narrator be able to know about Mr granger and his comatose state and all that?Since this situation involves Aaron3 and Abe1 who later becomes Abe2. Abe2 on the final Monday only meets Aaron3, at a time on the day when Aaron3 has already convinced Aaron2 (the narrator) to leave.

2015-07-29 10:58:23 by Faz:

Loved the movie, loved the commentary.

Many thanks.

2015-08-25 22:31:12 by The Blue Weeble:

Okay so for moment let's forget all the quantum mechanics of time travel. THIS IS the one thing that I've never understood / doesn't make sense.


They are both not wealthy. Abe appears to have more discretionary income, being single and not a father. Aaron always asks Abe to buy / replace stuff. But Abe lives in an apartment with some moocher and drives a very modest car. They don't have money for their project.

They are by all accounts young men just kinda scraping by

Aaron asks "why not the lottery?"

Abe's answer is silly to me. "It's not until Saturday. Even if we win it's only a couple hundred thousand a year for the next thirty years."

First, that's not that long and second, that's still a lot of money.

But instead they decide to buy stocks. Ok, but you need to have money to invest in the first place! The first day Abe "nearly doubled" his money. Aaron tells him there's stocks that "do a lot more than double."

The point is, they still need a significant chunk of change to make it worthwhile. You can't turn 1000 into 200,000 in one day, no matter the stock.

PLUS stocks are registered and monitored. If they kept kicking ass on the market you know the SEC (or similar agency) would investigate them. Winning the lottery once would be no thing. They risk exposure by day trading.

The point is, it seems like they took the LONG complicated route. Plus, where did the original investment come from? They know it's dangerous and can't time travel safely, they can't do it forever.

If it were me, I'd take the lottery.

2015-09-17 01:05:50 by Brad:

Excellent commentary. I keep getting drawn back to this movie. Unlike some of the chart people - I don't require perfect timeline charts to feel fulfilled by this movie.
I worked at a computer company many years ago where they dressed and talked like Aaron and Abe. The dialogue is so right. This movie has the highest verisimilitude. I don't feel cheated that there are many unanswered questions.
I'll have to give Shane's Upstream Color a try.

2015-10-21 03:56:45 by Jeff:

I'm gonna give the movie a shot. I'm pretty sure I remember giving up on this movie a coupla years ago because between the frigging IMPOSSIBLE English accents and the fast falking and the mumbling, the dialogue was inaccessible.

But I'm gonna try it again 'cause I like time travel movies.

I'll add this: any movie that requires the viewer to either "read the book" OR listen to an explanatory commentary in order to understand the movie is one poorly made movie. A movie should stand alone and tell the whole story and be internally consistent and comprehensible.

And British directors need to figure out that NO ONE understands a Liverpool accent and dialogue needs to be understandable and potted up in post -- for god's sake. As much as I liked Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels, I did so much backing up to REHEAR the dialogue, I effectively watched the movie three times by the time I was done.

2015-10-21 15:47:54 by Jeff:

OK. Watched it twice last night. Obviously the English movie I gave up on and referred to in my above post was not "Primer."

Primer was a good creative effort, but the screenplay was woefully deficient. Look, when I watch a movie I don't want to have to do plot-calculus problems in my head. The storytelling was cryptic and foggy. At about 54 minutes, when they see Thomas Granger sitting in the car and then chase him around the house and Abe finds two guys laying on the ground, that's where the storytelling got frustratingly unclear for me. I watched that part again just now and it's pretty aggravating how unclear it is. I couldn't tell who the two guys on the ground were or why Abe reached cautiously off to the right. It's bullshit storytelling.

Writer/director Shane Carruth just isn't showing us what's going on, as any good movie maker knows he should. The first rule of cinema is "show it don't tell it." Unfortunately, much of what happens in this movie -- both cause and effect -- isn't shown OR told, and the viewer is expected to do plot-calculus problems in his head while the movie continues.

I don't watch movies to be frustrated, I watch movies to be entertained by a good story. What every screenwriter and every director needs to keep in mind at all times are the two questions, "What does the viewer know and not know at this point in the story?" and "Does the viewer have enough information at this point to piece together what I'm not telling him explicitly?" These are two of the major aspects of good writing/directing and cinematic storytelling *IF* the writer/director answers them correctly.

Each manner of storytelling is an art unto itself, and cinematic storytelling was perfected by many writers and directors by the middle of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the genius of great cinematic storytelling has not been passed on to many writers and directors during the last 30 years. Some have a natural gift, like Ron Howard and John Ford, but many don't and haven't been taught.

Carruth isn't horrible, like some big-name Hollywood directors whose movies I will never again watch -- Terrance Malick, Quentin Tarantino, et. al -- but he needs some counsel as to what the audience needs to see on the screen for it to be good, comprehensible storytelling. And he should know that actually SHOWING us the story does not constitute insulting our intelligence.

I'm going to rewatch the movie with the commentary on, mainly because I think the commentary might be just as interesting as the movie.

2015-10-21 15:59:06 by Jeff:

Incedentally, for about 20 years I've been opposed to the practice of one person both writing the screenplay and directing the movie because you don't get any storytelling expertise cross-checking. The director can and should correct any errors that the screenwriter makes . . . and if they are the same person that doesn't happen. It works only for very rare individuals, and even then not all the time.

2016-04-30 01:57:19 by Sean:

I'd argue that this is a movie which anticipates our current media environment - one in which it's a simple thing to watch a particular movie over and over in order to suss out its secrets.

2016-12-13 06:46:14 by maevealleine:

Hi there. Your page was recommended on a popular reddit thread going on here:

Unfortunately, the sound cloud recording is not loading :( can-you provide a direct link? thank you :)

2016-12-13 09:16:21 by NexNZ:

Link works for me. If you are on mobile you need to download the soundcloud app.
Great commentary. I've watched twice a couple of years ago time for a rewatch!