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Thank Goodness I didn't read the reviews posted before I saw the
Most reviews (including ones on this site) will tell you waaayyyy too much
about the movie, and that's just plain frustrating. But, as an avid
cinephile, I promise not to do the same.
Memento is one of those pictures that will have you sitting in the theater after the lights come up so you can talk to everyone else about what they thought of the movie. This is a highly intelligent and original brain teaser that will have you guessing from beginning to end, and even afterwards. The story and the direction are the best I've seen so far this year, and it deserves all the kudos it gets.
Plainly put, the film tells the story of Leonard Shelby: a man who lost his short term memory in an assault where his wife was raped and murdered; now he's looking for the killer, despite his handicap. Simple as that. You don't need to know anymore.
The film is constructed and told in such a way that you are constantly put into the shoes of Leonard Shelby, beautifully played by Guy Pierce. Carrie-Ann Moss gives an equally mysterious and complex performance. This film is well-made all the way around--from the direction, to the editing, and especially the unique story that is rarely found in Hollywood these days. Four Stars!
This review may have been a little dry on the details, but go see the movie--you'll be thanking me later.
PS: Only go to the official website AFTER you've seen the movie. It too will give too much away. Afterwards, though, go and look at it--it's pretty impressive.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're looking for something intense, suspenseful, and different
than your usual effects-packed thriller, this is the best movie you
will see all year. You will be talking about Memento at work, at the
grocery store (to total strangers!), and you will find yourself joining
conversations when you hear the word "Memento." That's why this little
film that received almost no marketing stayed in theaters for months
and was in the top 10 money makers for several weeks.
The movie starts with a murder -- a revenge killing, in fact. But was the right person killed?
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is a man with no short-term memory. He hasn't been able to form new memories since the night his wife was murdered. Now he's on a hunt to find the murderer but with no way of remembering names, dates, places, facts and faces. Instead he tattoos himself with mementos of his search. When someone knows his name, he checks Polaroids to see if he knows them. Does he like this person? Does he trust this person? Is this the killer? He doesn't know unless he's scribbled a note.
Don't worry about trying to empathize with Leonard because Writer/Director Christopher Nolan puts you right in Leonard's shoes. You live the story in reverse order so that you never know more than Leonard does. In one scene you see Leonard getting information from a person who knows him -- maybe a good person; maybe bad. In the next scene you see a previous meeting between the two which sheds more light on their relationship. Later still you see how they met. But is that all of the story? You've yet to find out... and you won't know everything until the last scene. By living it backwards, you, like Leonard, have no knowledge of what came before.
It's brilliant story telling. But you might get frustrated because you don't know what's going on. That's normal. In fact, that's the whole idea. Just sit back, try to relax (though that's difficult in this movie), and find out just how twisted and complex Leonard's world is.
This film will leave its own memento on your mind, and you'll have a hard time forgetting how much you enjoyed it.
Christopher Nolan's "Memento" is truly a rare and exceptional achievement
modern filmmaking in that it manages to be new, fresh, hip, and exciting
without ever tiring its audience out - unless you're walking into this
without the desire to participate and actively analyze the mysterious
If that's the case, then this is DEFINITELY not a movie you should see. If, on the other hand, you are open-minded, creative, and alert, you'll definitely appreciate and get a kick out of this one. "Memento" is an old-fashioned "film noir"-type mystery thriller with an intriguing, ingenious twist: outfitting the entire film with a style that mirrors the protagonist's own mental condition while giving the poor viewer(s) his own perspective as well. It is masterfully filmed and edited in such a way that it is chronologically presented backwards (with two initially separate, parallel storylines - the main one, shot in colour, is the chronologically-backwards story with scenes that intercut with those of the other story, which is filmed more like a documentary, shot in black & white, and mostly takes place inside a motel room with the main character narrating, talking about the effects of his condition, etc.) While the average viewer may already be put off by such a complicated, confusing format, it is a very original premise that is well worth the struggle to figure out.
Acting is solid across the board, as is the writing, directing, etc., but special kudos must be extended to the very talented editor Dody Dorn, who successfully managed to put all of these fragments together and help them flow in a smooth, healthy manner that is not easy to pull off.
One of the most "memorable" (sorry, couldn't help slipping in the bad joke) films you're likely to ever see, "Memento" is an instant classic due to its groundbreaking narrative style and impressive dramatic undertones. For those jaded moviegoers who seek something to keep them awake, interested, and constantly thinking, there couldn't be a better choice than this film.
So the "innovative" concept of filming out of sequence has been cliche for
at least a few years now, but here's a film that makes it work far better
than its been shown in a while.
Having read the reviews and talked to others who saw it, I thought that I'd go into the movie figuring everything out right away and declaring the concept unworkable. I couldn't be further from the truth. This movie does things to your head that are illegal in some countries. Portrayed (for all intents and purposes) backwards, it forces you to think in the same way that our lead character, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce being more brilliant than usual) does. Suffering from a condition that renders him unable to remember anything for more than a few minutes, he is searching for the man who raped and killed his wife. Since each seen lasts no more than 15 minutes before jumping back to the what happened before that, our perceptions are shattered in the same way.
Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano (both of The Matrix) put in great performances that leave you guessing; simultaneously endearing and revolting.
Overall I left the film trying to figure out what was what, and I'm still not sure. This film noir concept shouldn't work, but it does so wonderfully.
A man with no short term memory tries to solve a murder. The scenes in the
movie are played in reverse. Sounds like yet another run of the mill comedy
but in reality is one of the best suspense/dramas I've seen in
While some may claim showing the scenes in reverse is just an annoying trick to make a simple plot confusing and add a plethora of twists, I wholeheartedly disagree. Any good story teller knows it's not what you say, but how you say it.
By playing the scenes in reverse you experience the confusion Lenny undergoes throughout the film. Showing some of the scenes in chronological order (BTW, the use of B&W instead of color to make the time distinction was ingenious) creates suspense which builds as the two timelines converge. The somewhat rushed pace (compared to a written format) doesn't give you enough time to adequately analyze the events during the movie. This has two advantages: firstly you're going to talk about it after you leave the theater adding to experience immensely, and secondly you don't have time to think about what has happened (will happen) so you're experience better follows that of Lenny.
While many might find the movie rather confusing, it flows wonderfully for anyone familiar with writing styles that constantly jump around a timeline (e.g. Catch 22).
If I told you the entire plot of this film it really wouldn't matter as it
is an exquisite paean to the subjectivity of memory and therefore is in
itself ambiguous; the truth' of it is up to you. You come out of the cinema
questioning yourself, your memories, your truths. Nothing in this film is as
it seems, and yet paradoxically everything is as it seems. We see everything
through Guy Pearce's characters' (Lenny) eyes, unfortunately he has no
short-term memory so cannot form new memories. He would have already
forgotten the first sentence of this review. He lives in snapshots of life;
his only form of memory is his Polaroid camera, just like in the excellent
German film Wintersleepers; also (partly) about a short-term memory
In this film Lenny takes snapshots to remember who people are, where he now lives, his car, everything. As you can imagine this is perfect for paranoia, suspicion, uncertainty, confusion, and betrayal. And that's exactly what you get in extreme doses. The difference between this film and Wintersleepers however is that Memento is entirely from Lenny's perspective. This therefore creates an imaginative, creatively unsurpassable film. The film begins where it should end, so far so trite, but here's the beauty, we, like Guy Pearce, learn in fragments what's going on. It is therefore perfect for those who love to second guess what's going to happen, who did what, who's doing what and why. The beauty of this film though is that my interpretation could be so different from yours, and neither of us could be sure whose interpretation is the right one; if there is a right one at all. Nothing is certain, nothing is clear. Another beauty of this film is the way it is filmed and edited. Pieces are shown a number of times with no real linear link between them, just like it would be if we ourselves had a memory disorder, and then they are cut up and edited next to things that happen either before or after it. It's just like holding ten different and linearly distinct Polaroids in your hand and having a short-term memory disorder. Excellent.
I'm not even sure if watching it again will make things any less ambiguous, but then who cares? The ambiguity is what makes this a great film, if it wasn't so cut up, or from Lenny's perspective it would be both very short and trite; and lacking in tension, suspense and interest. But as it stands it has all three, isn't trite and says so much about humanity. Oh, and the plot? It really doesn't matter, all you need to know is that everything about this film is indicative of the subjectivity of memory, of our experiences and interpretations of all that happens to us. Nothing will seem as black and white as it did beforehand. It will make you question every memory you have, almost as much as possessing a psychology degree, as I do! So, go and see it: be confused, acknowledge the frailty of all you know to be true, and then imagine the freedom of actually being Lenny, and then the horror of having nothing, nothing but the reliance of a pen and a Polaroid camera to know who you are.
Yes, it's true. The entire movie is based on a gimmick. However, I honestly feel that this does not cheapen the picture in the slightest bit. I loved every scene; discovering information as our lead character discovered it. It demands a second and third viewing, as there are many subtleties and quick flashes that may not be picked up on the first time around. Its one of the most original films ever made, and for people who scoff at the concept of not having a short-term memory, it actually is a real condition. Watch this movie. And, please pay attention. The performances are wonderful, and its structured magnificently.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you hate reality-based film-making this is awful. If you hate Film Noir,
this is ugly. But for me, Nolan has convinced me he is one of the most
important directors out there. I was even thinking, "It must be easy to edit
a movie so that it's all backwards." But it's not, it's not any easier - and
he leaves you straining and watching from scene to scene, searching for the
truth. Even the final revelation will affect each viewer and leaves them
searching for their own "ultimate truth" according to their own experience.
Most people comment about manipulation in connection with this movie, but after watching the last scene, I'm convinced that manipulation is not the main theme at all. I don't want to spoil it for you, but the basis of unfolding backwards in time is that you are enlisted to scrutinize the film trying to discover some set of motivations behind each character's actions later in time that makes sense. If you think you would enjoy this sort of puzzle, I think you will enjoy this excellently crafted film.
Incredible, riveting and powerful. What else could I say? This movie has
all of the qualities of classic film noir as well as the magnitude of an
original, unique concept that has been tried and tired before but works
Guy Pearce has been underrated for years (just think back now to Priscilla and can you believe this is the same guy) and finally might get the recognition here that was at least well-deserved of him back for LA Confidential. Powerful perfomances, well developed story with suspensful buildup of what our main character pieces together little by little makes this a must see.
Easily in my top 100 of all time.
MEMENTO / (2001) ***1/2 (out of four)
By Blake French:
How is this for a scenario? A man breaks into your house in the middle of the night. He kills your wife and leaves you with brain injuries. Furious, you pledge your life to track down and kill whoever is responsible. There is just one problem: after the head injury, you are no longer capable of creating new memories; everything before the accident is crystal clear, but now you cannot remember anything past several minutes.
Now chew on this: what happens to guilt if you cannot remember what you did? How can a person have emotions if he does not know where they came from? How can we learn from our experiences if we cannot remember them. What is the purpose of revenge if someone cannot recollect or prosper from it?
"Memento" wins this year's prize for inducing the most audience participation. Not only is the film thought-provoking and unusually absorbing, but it also places us in the main character's shoes. How can we be in the same mental status with the main character when he cannot remember anything? Writer/director Christopher Nolan has that answer: he tells the story backwards. We begin at the end and work our way towards the beginning. However, each individual scene plays running forward, often overlapping, providing us with clear, constructive transitions. The main character, Leonard, is confused in prospects of time and experience, and so are we.
Other characters include Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, from "The Matrix"), who also lost someone close and can help Leonard, and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano, also from "The Matrix"), whose identity often shifts mysteriously. Then there is the series of flashbacks of Leonard's experiences while working as an insurance agent. The situation involves an individual named Sammy, who has a memory disorder similar to Leonard's. His diabetic spouse is not sure whether her husband is faking his condition or not. To prove it to herself she arranges a test I dare not reveal. Leonard is more intricately involved in this story than he even believes.
"Memento" is smart and imaginative. It doesn't pass up little details of the characters. Leonard is constantly jotting himself notes and taking Polaroid pictures so his life can make some sense. He even gets permanent tattoos all over his body so he does not lose or forget some of the most important information.
In a movie like this, it would be almost impossible to make without leaving some information out; even some of the film's actors were confused and requested a script told in sequence order. But these filmmakers have constructed a movie with a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through: If Leonard cannot remember anything after the accident, then how can he remember that he has a memory condition? There are no tattoos or notes to remind him, and whenever he meets someone he explains his condition thoroughly. This is necessary information he reveals, but there are better ways to do so. We could be there when his doctor explains the condition to him, or see his friends talking about it. The sky is the limit in a movie like this. It was not essential to leave such a massive, obvious hole in the plot.
"Memento" is still a unique mystery thriller. It is a tantalizing experience we do not often come across at the movies. For audiences who like to sit back and relax, this film is a waste of time. It requires us to follow along, participate, fit puzzle pieces together-"Memento" doesn't provide any easy or obvious answers. All but the most intelligent and thoughtful kids will not be able to follow this film; it is intended for adult audiences. "Memento" is one of the year's most challenging movies, not to be missed if you are looking for something clever and original.
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