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A truly brilliant film - clever, innovative, thrilling, funny and moving...
ARTICLE INFOMemento is an extraordinary film. It stars Guy Pearce, who seems to have a knack for picking films which sound unlikely hits, but turn into exactly that. He is joined on the cast list by Carrie Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, both of the Matrix. All three turn in excellent performances.
film by Christopher Nolan
rated 8.6/10 by 27 people
The idea behind the film is a clever one - Leonard, Pearce's character, is on the trail of a man who, in concert with another individual, raped and murdered his wife. Pearce found the attack going on, and shot one of the men, not realising there was another, and when he went to help his wife was clubbed unconscious from behind. He passed out on the ground next to his wife, who then suffocated, leaving the assailant to escape.
This blow to the head causes Leaonard a peculiar type of brain damage. His memory up to and including the events of that night is unharmed, but he no longer possesses the ability to make long term memories - he exists in the present, any memory older than 15 minutes having vanished. However, he is driven by the need to track down the person who did this both to his wife and to himself. To organise his search he makes notes, leaving himself written directions, takes polaroids of people who are helping him, and for crucial information, tattoos himself.
The plot itself is very clever, but it is the combination of that and the cinematography which really lifts this film head and shoulders above other thrillers. The film effectively plays backwards, starting at the end of the timeline portrayed. It then proceeds to work itself back in 10minute or so segments, each ending where the one that played before it began. Thus the thrill of the film is - brilliantly -not finding out where it goes to, but rather finding out where it it has come from.
This fantastic device has a couple of knock on effects - not only does it mean we are rivetted to our seats to find out how these events began, but also we are also forced to effectively cohabit the world which Leonard lives in. We, as he, have no idea what has gone on since his wife's death, and we are also forced into relying on his notes, polaroids and tattoos. At time goes back we see the notes that we have later relied on being written, and the story begins to unfold. We also begin to learn that not everybody is who they appear to be...
However, there's more - a second storyline runs in between the segments which go backward - shot in black and white, these segments go forward in time, and provide some of the background information we need to know.
And....if all the chronology isn't enough to play with your head, there's more as well. Memory is, as Leonard says, unreliable - on top of the lack of memory he has now, there is some doubt as to the veracity of some of what he remembers from before the accident as well. The acting is spot in, really drawing you in, and the film manages to contain some very darkly amusing moments ("What am I doing" ponders Leonard as he sprints along at the beginning of one scene. "Ah, chasing this quy" as he sights someone running on a parallel path to him. "No, he's chasing me" he realises as the two paths converge and his "quarry" turns towards him). There are also some genuine hand-to-mouth times when you realise what's twist the story is about to take. As it draws towards its climax - or, rather, its genesis - the film almost becomes too much. I found that just as the beginning played out I was on the brink of losing some of the threads - the ending was, infact, perfectly timed.
The structure of this film alone would make you watch it twice - it's necessary to fully appreciate the roles which everybody has played in the story. However, not unlike the Usual Supects, I imagine that this is a film which would stand up very well to repeated viewings, gradually revealing more and more subtle touches to itself. I really can't comment highly enough about it; its so rare to get a film with such stylish innovation coupled with such a compelling narrative. It really is stunning stuff. If I had one complaint, its that the DVD is pretty poor - no complaints about the picture or sound quality, but the extras - well, there are none! Also, the chapters have been oddly divided up - into couples. Surely it would have made more sense to have them individually - this would have given the true fan the ability to watch the entire film chronologically by programming the chapters in that way. An excellent opportunity missed I think.
Still, that's minor nitpicking - You Must See This Film. It really is that fantastic.