Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Plot: Told in reverse chronological order, the film follows Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator whose wife is murdered and he is hit in the back of the head, resulting in his short-term memory loss. Now determined to avenge his wife, Leonard tries to piece together the clues about his wife’s murderer, going so far as to tattoo the clues he does know about him to his body in order to remember certain details. Along the way, he is helped by an undercover cop named Teddy and a woman named Natalie, who just might have different motives for Leonard.
Before I start the actual review, welcome to my Christopher Nolan series of reviews! What’s the occasion, you may ask? Well, Dunkirk is coming out in July, so I figured since Christopher Nolan is my favourite filmmaker of all time, what better excuse do I have to talk about his filmography? I decided to skip his 1998 debut Following, since I tried to write a review for it and honestly couldn’t come up with much. And just because I know some people have not seen Memento, I am gonna keep this review spoiler free, so anyone who hasn’t seen it, you’re in the clear.
First Thoughts: Where the hell am I supposed to start with this one? Well, Christopher Nolan was a name that a lot of people didn’t know back in 2000/2001, and even between the release of this film and Batman Begins in 2005, it was still a name that a lot of people didn’t know. But over time, this film has become a phenomenon, with over 800,000 ratings on IMDb and worldwide recognition. Now the first time I saw it, I really liked it, but having seen it a second time knowing how certain things connect, the film got even better.
Story: Memento did something with storytelling that even to this day is incredibly unique, Nolan made the decision to tell the story in reverse, even going so far as to have the first scene in the film play out in reverse. This is actually quite interesting since Leonard has short term memory loss and can’t make new memories, so making the decision to tell the story in these fragments, it’s mind-boggling. Some people maybe aren’t fans of the way the story in this movie’s told, but I think it’s fantastic, and it really forces you to go back and rewatch it multiple times just so you can understand it. The other thing I love about the film is how it manipulates you into thinking certain things are one way, but then it turns the tables on you. And without spoiling anything, I will say that this film has a really good way of connecting things that happen at the beginning of the film and the end of the film.
Technical: Even this early in his filmmaking career, Christopher Nolan’s directorial vision is meticulous. There’s just something in the way he directs Memento that is a thing of beauty. He directs the moments of tension with such passion, and the more dramatic moments with just as much passion. Also, this film marked the first collaboration between Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister, who is one of my favourite cinematographers, being right up there with Emmanuel Lubezki, and the cinematography in Memento is gorgeous. It truly gives the film this intense aura that wouldn’t have been there if Phister hadn’t been behind the camera.
Performances: In my opinion, Guy Pearce is one of the most underrated actors alive, and with this movie being so critically acclaimed, it’s kind of a wonder why people don’t notice him more, because he is so good in this movie. He’s a very broken character, which causes him to be very much an unreliable narrator, and that’s what I love about his character and the writing. Carrie-Anne Moss has also rarely been better than she is in this movie. You can talk about The Matrix forever, but I do believe that she’s at her best in this movie. She gives a lot of emotion to her character and you really do get the sense that she just wants to use Leonard for her own selfish purposes, which I really don’t want to get into here. Joe Pantoliano is also great as a cop who wants to help Leonard seek justice against his wife’s killer, and you can tell that he also has his own motives.
Final Thoughts: So having seen Memento a second time, I can safely say that it gets better upon repeat viewings. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it when I first saw it, but watching it again and knowing where the story is going, I can appreciate it so much more. In my opinion, Memento is as close to a perfect first impression as you can possibly get. Everything about Memento is spot on, from the direction to the dialogue to the cinematography, the way it’s edited, everything about Memento is so damn good. Now originally, I gave this movie 9/10 because of how it took a while for me to really grasp what was going on upon first viewing, but now that I know what’s going on, that rating has been boosted.
- Guy Pearce is amazing
- Spot-on direction and writing
- Excellent cinematography
- Keeps you guessing until the end
- Nearly perfectly edited
Overall Grade: 10/10
So guys, I hope you enjoyed my review of Memento, I will be back very shortly with my review of Insomnia. So stay tuned for that next week!