Memento

Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

This is a film I’ve wanted to watch for a very long time, mainly because of the directorial talents of Christopher Nolan. The man who brought us ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’, first made a real impression on the film world back at the start of the millennium, with ‘Memento’. Highly rated by critics, and coming highly recommended by Nick Deal after his recent viewing, I made this a priority to watch this week. Nick also warned me about the complexity of plot, so I expected twists and enigmas, which can be confusing but also very intriguing.

Nick was right, it is complex. But I think I can just about navigate through all the flashbacks and muster up a suitable summary of this very clever, original plot, without giving anything away. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers from Anterograde Amnesia – which means that he is unable to form new memories – as a result of a blow to the head. Tragically, that blow to the head was inflicted upon Leonard whilst he was trying to prevent the murder of his wife. Any memories from Leonard’s life before that moment are safe and unaffected, but since the “incident”, Leonard must rely on photographs, notes and tattoos to store the information he needs to work out who he can trust to help him find the killer and exact revenge.

I’m a big fan of Guy Pearce, with 2012 in particular throwing up some great performances. As the likeable anti-hero in ‘Lockout’ he is charming, witty and a pretty good action hero. Then, as the evil Charlie Rakes in ‘Lawless’ he transforms into a real prick, to say the least. Rewind 12 years and you’ll find Pearce in his first big leading role, not that you can tell. His depiction of a confused, desperate man is exceedingly convincing, with sporadic moments of humour making this another, on the whole, quite likeable role for Pearce. This is a film which is dominated very much by the story of Leonard Shelby, and Pearce does a fine job in carrying the narrative, but I was also impressed by Joe Pantoliano in his role as, shall we say, Teddy (watch it and you’ll understand this ambiguity). I’m still not entirely sure whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, which owes as much to a great performance as it does a well written story.

The flashback technique, and use of parallel storylines could easily have messed with the flow of a very interesting narrative, but luckily Christopher Nolan is more than comfortable working with challenging scripts (a la Inception), and these features actually enhanced the viewing experience massively. The mystery element of the film certainly had me gripped, and whilst I wasn’t completely engrossed and involved, I was sufficiently invested in discovering the truth. I would describe the experience as more tense than thrilling, with the pace rarely shifting into a higher gear, but NEVER dropping below a steady, suspenseful hold.

I have to say, I enjoyed ‘Memento’ about as much as I expected I would, which I definitely mean as a positive. It was fascinating, clever and full of twists; very typical Nolan. ‘Memento’ is a must-see for fans of Nolan’s work, and for anyone who enjoys films like ‘Se7en’ and Shutter Island’.

Jakob’s rating: 8.2 out of 10
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