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 :-).