Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Christopher Nolan
Before Christopher Nolan found fame with his Batman trilogy he adapted a short story by his younger brother to create a unique, thought-provoking movie. Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man who was attacked in his home and witnessed the death of his wife and has now devoted his life to finding the second attacker who escaped. Unfortunately Shelby suffered a head injury and has anterograde amnesia, affecting his ability to create new memories. He relies on a series of clues, including tattoos, to assist himself in finding the attacker and seeking revenge. The movie alternates between colour and black and white sequences. The black and white sequences proceed in chronological order, while the colour sequences proceed in reverse chronological order. The forward black and white scenes and the reverse colour scenes alternate until they meet in the middle of the story at the end of the film.
Why Should I Watch it?
Some movies are made to create an instant response to explosions and fight scenes, providing an exhilarating thrill ride for the viewer while others attempt to elicit an emotional or mental response, casting doubt and raising questions on what the audience has seen or even making them reassess their own personal opinions or views on a specific subject. Memento provides both, creating an exciting story that promotes edge-of-your-seat viewing while also forcing the viewer to question their own moral code.
Released to critical acclaim and taking in a healthy $40 million off a $9 million budget, Memento is a unique film that is difficult to discuss without spoiling the movie for new viewers. Needless to say the film uses its alternating sequences to maximum advantage, forcing the viewer to see a limited amount of information (just like our protagonist Shelby) until the finale, where questions are answered as a cohesive story suddenly emerges from the previously.
The cast are brilliant, engaging the viewer at every turn and adding to the suspense created by the superb story and directing. Pearce provides a wonderful performance, bringing us into his limited knowledge of the world and creating an air of distrust essential to the story itself while the supporting players each give solid performances. Pantoliano is fantastic in his role as Teddy, a contact of Shelby’s who should not be trusted. It’s another example of fine work from Pantoliano, an underrated performer who seems to specialise in morally-corrupt bit parts but is always a pleasure to watch. Nolan’s directing is also brilliant, laying the fine groundwork that he would later build upon with films such as The Prestige and Inception.
As a nice bonus for those able to track down the discs, an added feature allows you to view the film in chronological order. Some of the tension slips away but for those wanting to gain a comprehensive understanding of the tale (and struggled with its original presentation) it does help.
As always, here’s the trailer to whet your appetite or to remind you how good the film can be. Enjoy!