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Reviews & Ratings for
Memento More at IMDbPro »

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Original and intriguing film noir revision.

9/10
Author: EThompsonUMD from Massachusetts
2 October 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Revising such film noir conventions as a story told through the unreliable point of view and voice-over narration of a morally flawed investigator-protagonist, the pervasive infusion of a dark past into the narrative present, and the use of a femme fatale as an embodiment of evil allure, Memento is perhaps the most original and intriguing revision of the genre since Welles' Touch of Evil.

As almost every commentator has noted, the most startling (or 'gimmicky') feature of Memento - and one with obvious roots in the film noir tradition - is its inverted/contorted plot structure. The film loops backwards episodically to present a series of revelations about the main character, Lenny (Guy Pearce), about the motives of his antagonists 'Teddy' (Joe Pantolino) and 'Natalie' (Carrie Ann Moss), and about the nature of Lenny's memory-loss condition. His condition 'isn't amnesia' (or so Lenny tells everyone he meets) but rather such severe short term memory loss that he is unable to assimilate and retain experience - in other words, to make new memories. Consequently, Lenny's identity, or more precisely his self-knowledge, is arrested at the moment he received a blow to his head while trying to stop intruders from raping his wife.

Everything that has happened thereafter has no subjective reality for Lenny, only whatever 'objective' reality he can forge using instant photos, notes to himself, and - for the really important stuff - tattoos. But matters are even more complex and paradoxical than this setup might lead one to expect. Gradually, the viewer learns that even the clear memories that Lenny claims to have from before the assault are, like dreams, colored by protective distortions and selectivity. Moreover the so-called facts he has assembled in his investigation and that he defensively claims are more reliable than memory turn out to be irretrievably entangled in subjective motives: his own, Teddy's, and Natalie's. Thus the viewer's initial sympathy for Lenny as a justifiable victim/avenger transforms to horror as Lenny's true current identity becomes clear.

Importantly, Memento's regressive plot structure is punctuated and counter-pointed by a series of noirish black and white flashbacks in which Lenny relates to an anonymous phone caller the story of Sammy Jankis, another sufferer of short term memory loss who, ironically, was Lenny's big case in his pre-trauma life as an insurance investigator. Unlike the main narrative, the Sammy sequences are told in chronological order, strategically intersecting and organizing the narrative as it wends its way backwards to the moment when Lenny decides to set in motion the data trail that will lead to the murder we see him commit in the film's opening sequence. In addition, Lenny's reconstruction of the Sammy sequences is itself dreamlike and unreliable since he attributes to Sammy characteristics that (if we can believe Teddy, an utterly corrupt cop) are Lenny's own.

In addition to providing plot exposition and a recurring visual/narrative reference point, the Sammy sequences also bring into clear thematic focus the existential implications of memory loss. Like Sammy's, Lenny's 'condition' is a reduction to the most minimal and absurd level of the human mental processes for constructing meaning (in life, in film) out of fragmentary phenomena and evanescent recollections. In an age of Alzheimer's, deconstruction, and ego-fictions, most viewers will all-too-easily identify with Lenny's painfully hopeless and terrifyingly arbitrary quest to hold reality steady as is it fizzles and flits away.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

The Reverse Genius Principle

Author: dunmore_ego from Los Angeles, California
28 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

9) And that's when we realize we could never be sure of anything to begin with.

8) When Leonard eventually thinks he has found his wife's killer, eleventh-hour reveals shock us with the possibility that his whole crisis may be nothing more than delusion.

7) Editing this movie must have been like navigating inside Las Vegas hotels with no watch or compass: sex and drug distractions, deprivation of day or night, no signposts or exit signs, and of course, nauseous on cheap shrimp and hairy tequila. Untold credit to editor, Dody Dorn, for shuffling the deck as confusingly as possible, yet weaving the tale as tightly as a sanitarium wicker basket.

6) But every few minutes, the movie twists back on itself, each flashback a segment of Leonard's life that happened just before the segment we have just seen – and with each flashback, we realize just how wrong Leonard is about who his friends are, his past life, clues to the killer, his quest *in toto.* By about the fourth paragraph we realize: this piece is running backwards.

5) From Jonathan Nolan's short story, *Memento Mori*, we meet Leonard mid-investigation, slumming it in a cockroach motel, having lost his job as insurance consultant, looking disheveled (as Guy Pierce can do so natchelly), and optimistically on the trail of the murderer; hanging with gregarious Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), and involved with hot bod, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), both of whom seem to be aiding Leonard catch his killer.

4) Leonard's last "new memory" was the murder of his wife. During the scuffle with his wife's killer, a blow to the head caused his memory faculty to shut down. Whether this is truly biologically possible (if you cannot make new memories, how do you even shop for food and water or pay the rent?), for the movie's purposes, it means Leonard must piece together clues to his wife's killer through copious notes, tattoos on his own body and Polaroids. But the truth will forever elude him and the clues that lead to the killer are mere wraiths, the products of his own "selective" reasoning.

3) The harder you strive for something, the harder it is to grasp. But what you care least about - or that you were never striving for – falls into your lap. Some call this the path of least resistance, but it's actually called The Reverse Genius Principle. And Leonard - all ephemeral ideas and misplaced action – is a Reverse Genius in full throttle.

2) Guy Pearce is the memory-challenged Leonard, who is trying so hard to move forward – to find his wife's killer, but unable to create "new memories" to retain info - that he ends up moving backward. Thusly, writer-director Christopher Nolan has crafted a film where the clues to a murder fall neatly OUT of place. Backwards.

1) *Memento* opens with a killing. We don't know why. We don't know who.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Overview and analysis behind the shocking plot.

10/10
Author: kylemyle728 from United States
1 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

During the movie "Memento," the audience is left guessing throughout the whole movie until the very end. It has a unique style of presenting the plot in which the movie begins with a scene and then it plays backwards from there. While the movie jumps backwards scene by scene, there is also a transition played in black and white that is continuously playing forwards until a certain point. It is not until the very end of the movie where the scenes played in color meet with the ones played in black and white. This is where the climax of the movie occurs and all the revelations of each characters role are revealed. It is a must see and you will not regret it.

In the end of the movie we find out that the main character Lenny, who suffers from short term memory loss, has been tricked by his so called friend Teddy, into killing a drug dealer. Throughout the whole movie Lenny is on a quest to kill the murderer of his wife, who is in fact Lenny himself. Lenny gets the identity of himself and a man named Sammy Jenkis confused and we find out that Lenny is in fact Sammy. It leads us to believe that Lenny has used his brain condition to illicit forgetting what really happened to his wife to clear himself of shame and anger. This caused him to create Sammy Jenkis and allows him to believe that the ones who assaulted his wife and gave him the brain condition were the ones who supposedly killed his wife. We find out that Teddy, who is a local cop, has already helped Lenny kill the man who assaulted his wife. Yet Lenny forgot all about it and Teddy kept the proof and then used Lenny for his own benefit to kill a drug dealer for money. Once Lenny figures this out in the end of the movie he decides to burn all the evidence and leaves himself a clue that indicates Teddy is in fact the one who killed his wife. Lenny then leaves the scene reminding himself that he is still alive and then as fast as it was all revealed it is then forgotten. This leads us back into the rest of the movie in which we had already seen in reverse order.

When the movie is over the audience is left shocked and slightly confused about how to view Lenny. He acts as if he is an innocent man who has now become a conscious free murderer. He forgets everything he doesn't write down but he is the one choosing to leave out the facts that he finds out on multiple occasions that he is in fact a murderer for pleasure. It started as pay back but for someone who forgets the feeling so easily and has no direction to his life, why not make it a hobby. It's odd to think about that he is spending all his effort searching for his wife's killer when in reality it is Lenny he is looking for. He takes the lives of others to free him of guilt which in the end makes him more of a villain than the movies hero.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A trip into the mind

9/10
Author: Robertino Ruffinelli from Asunción, Paraguay
4 April 2009

If the director of this independent film tried to make us feel really confused, like the main character, he did it wonderfully. There are only a few movies like this one, the kind of movies that makes you pay attention to every minute of it. Obviously that doesn't work all the time, but this case is the exception. Really well directed with a wonderful photography and excellent cast. The main actors' performances are great. We really root for the guy as we hate the ones who try to take advantage of him.

Original films like this one always stand out. Perhaps it didn't caught much attention at first but now it is in an important position at the IMDb top 250 and that means that most the people recognize great movies when they see them.

As I said before, this movie is a little confusing because it runs backwards while the black and white scenes run in chronological order. But that wasn't a cheap trick to make the movie more "intelectual", it was its strength. A rare film that shouldn't be missed.

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17 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

One of my favorites-Excellent!!!

10/10
Author: rabidwolf417 from United States
2 August 2007

I was totally blown away by this movie. I think this is a total masterpiece. I wish I could have thought of something as ingenious as this. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good mystery, acting, editing, directing, plot. I can and have watched it over and over again. This should have won for best picture the year it came out. Go out and rent it. Go and watch it. Go out and buy it. you will not be disappointed. This movie is about a guy who loses his short term memory and tries to hunt down his wife's rapist and killer. I won't say anything else. It is a masterpiece, thought not perfect it probably should be about a 9.8 on the IMDb but I'll give it a 10 out of 10.

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20 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Skin as Photograph

Author: tedg (tedg@FilmsFolded.com) from Virginia Beach
14 May 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein.

I rate this very high on my scale, primarily for its ambition and intellect.

Usually I get annoyed at IMDB comments that report the story as if it were important, but it is here:

---Lenny's home is attacked, wife raped, him injured. He develops this `condition' which has no physical cause. In other words, the condition is invented. The insurance investigator (Sammy Jankins), uncovers him as a fraud by using electrified test blocks. Knowing this, his wife challenges him and he `accidentally' kills her rather than face the condition. Sent to a hospital, he escapes and ties up with the cop who investigated the case. Together, they track down the petty crook and kill him. Over time, the condition becomes more pronounced and embedded. The cop (Teddy) is crooked and exploits Lenny in a doublecross drug deal, getting him to kill Jimmy. Jimmy's girlfriend Natalie also manipulates Lenny to first chase off Dodd (who is looking for the missing money). Lenny decides to get even with Teddy, so plants a seed that he will use later to justify killing Teddy.

---It is essential to know that Lenny was never an insurance investigator, and that his condition is self-delusional. The order and ritual is not to cope with, but to create the condition. Remembering his wife increases the intensity behind the psychosis -- remembering his investigator gives him identity and focus in refining the condition -- knowing all this transforms the idea behind the film into something of genius.

That's because it is deeply self-referential: us looking at a film, especially at a mystery, is just the same as looking at a few polaroids and trying to create/remember a past. Watching movies is self-delusional, and with detective stories it is a game of wits between viewer and writer to outwit and manipulate each other just as here between Lenny and Teddy. (The filmmaker calls us, we shouldn't answer, but we forget.) This film goes further. An actor forms the picture by putting words on it; in the case of acting, the `picture' is the body, so it makes sense for the clue/words to appear on his body.

The combination of the three (words on skin, remembrances of images past, the mind duel with the writer) adds up to a pretty mind-expanding framework. That alone transports the intelligent viewer to another world, a shocking world of self. This makes the film important, and an important film deserves criticism.

So what could be better?

The ink on skin as referential of film acting was done so much more elegantly and deeply with `Pillow Book.' The playing with time was moderately clever compared to the other, deeper games in this film -- but it could have been much more challenging. It could have stuttered (`Limey') could have folded (`Pulp Fiction') could have paralleled (`Run Lola Run') could have spiralled deeper (`Snake Eyes'). Maybe in the next film.

I did not think the eye of the camera was very clever. This had `noirish' writing but not filming. More like the later `DOA' in the black and white would have really spun. The dialog and plot were needlessly simple. If I am going to go to the trouble to displace my mind for a day or two, I want it shifted beyond Jupiter. That the story was so simple was pandering to the dumb masses and annoyed.

But the biggest flaw was our friend Guy. Moss is not a real actress. Guy is, but he's of the rather simple kind, who thinks he plays a character. Consider what this film is: it is a film about films first, and within that we have a character inventing another character and reality. That's three roles in one. Woody Allen made a similar movie so far as this matter: `Sweet and Lowdown.' It was a fake documentary about a guy who created a stage persona which he subsequently adopted. Simple stuff plotwise compared to `Memento.' But it had Sean Penn. Watch Sean play three roles at once, weaving them into a complex multidimensional space. This film was intelligent enough in its conception to warrant such texture, to have the actor remind us that we are him and he isn't.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

the most important English language film of the 21st century

10/10
Author: (winner55) from United States
15 May 2007

I write this after having to write a bad review of Nolan's "batman Begins." "Memento". after more than seven years, remains the most important English language film of the 21st century. Into it, Nolan pours all the fundamental problems of film, and the fundamental problems of memory that gave rise to film in the first place.

It takes about four viewings to get any grip on this film - yet none of these viewings feel wasted in any way, as though the director has played tricks on us - on the contrary, it is the film's bald-face honesty which leaves us in despair of ever getting just the right handle on all the details and the characters.

Its hard to understand how Nolan could have betrayed himself and his vision after this film, by selling out to Hollywood's highest bidders - hopefully, he'll recover and give us the Christopher Nolan film we should expect after seeing this one.

But in any event, this remains one of the most important films ever made - brilliantly written, filmed, acted, edited - a necessary companion piece to Welles' "Citizen Kane" or Eisenstein's "Potemkin" - hopefully, Christopher Nolan will actually direct another film some day....

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Okay, what am I doing? Oh, I'm chasing that guy.

Author: DarthFoole (jugglervr@aol.com)
16 April 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What I generally look for in a good movie is character development. If nothing changes in the characters' personalities, I have trouble enjoying the film, as it loses a certain sense of realism. One method of character development that I particularly enjoy is that of the "revealing" method, finding out more about a person's personality by being shown information. Many people mention The Usual Suspects when reviewing Memento and I can't help using it as well. This method of character development is used very well in that movie also, in the twist at the end. I felt that Leonard's character developed extremely well in that we were shown bits of his personality at a time and it was not until the end that we found out what he was truly all about. *Spoiler comment at end*

This film, with its memory-troubled main character, reminded me of a sub-plot in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, The Sirens of Titan, in which the main Character, Malachi Constant, must endure repetitive memory wipes, only knowing what is going on by re-reading a series of notes that he writes to himself.

I was going to mention something else about Memento, but I forgot it. Maybe I should have written myself a note.

***

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***Spoiler comment below***

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I really enjoyed the sequence of shots in which Leonard realizes that he's crazy and consciously decides to prolong his fictitious search by leaving himself a note that is, in effect, a lie. The idea of lying to oneself brings up entirely new issues of paranoia that I thoroughly dig.

Will have to count next time i see it, the number of times that Teddy tries to get the keys to Leonard's car. I think it may be as many as six.

small plot hole, the Jaguar's car alarm goes off when the window is shot, but the alarm had not been armed.

***

***

***End Spoiler***

***

***

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic

9/10
Author: Mike Keating (yamawhore@gmail.com) from London, England
14 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Memento sees Guy Pearce play Leonard Shelby, a man with no short term memory, on a search for his wife's killer in a film which is intelligent, engaging, well thought out, and sometimes, even funny.

Memento demands your full concentration, and its backwards development is a stroke of genius, placing you in the same situation as Leonard; you see what he sees, and aside from small clues, very little else. This way of engaging its audience is what makes Memento special, as it draws you into the plot and Leonard's complex situation without leaving you lost amidst the chronology or bogged down in little clues. This is also helped by Guy Pearce's performance; he remains likable for most of the film, his little jokes and his honesty helping you side with him, but he also shows evidence of a darker side, especially towards the end (the beginning?), as Teddy (Pantoliano) plants the seed of doubt in his mind.

Basically, Memento is a very good film, an intelligent, engaging storyline that keeps you interested even after it ends.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant culmination of a series of anti-detective thrillers.(possible spoilers)

9/10
Author: Alice Liddel (-darragh@excite.com) from dublin, ireland
15 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is refreshing to see a (relatively) mainstream thriller that does not follow the tired old rules, that uses Resnais, rather than Mel Gibson, as a starting point, that substitutes for an inevitable linear plot a temporal time bomb, where the straight line of events is smashed to pieces and put together with seeming haphazardness. Further, this plot is told completely from one character's point-of-view, a character as we by now know, with short-term memory. His great boast is that he remembers his identity and memory up until the accident - the denouement suggests that even this is a myth.

So what is the plot we're watching? Has the emotional shock of finally getting revenge had the required, cathartic effect, and that Leonard Shelby is now piecing back the bits of remembered past? Or is he, in effect, a dead man, if we agree that someone does not exist as an identity without memory, exists in a kind of limbo, and that this dead Leonard is watching his life flashing before (or behind) him?

As all the 'revelations' at the end take place in the narrative's begining, Leonard is denied all the action hero's usual rewards - increased self-knowledge, knowledge of the world and the plot. He is given the answers at the start of his plot, and forgets them. Leonard at the end (his beginning) is a more coherent character than at the beginning (his end) - is this just because we've given a mass of (highly dubious) information by then and think we know him and his situation better? Or is he, as his narrative progresses, getting vaguer, moving towards inertia, the catatonia that finally swamped his altar-ego Sammy Jankis.

Our problem is that the film comprises not one plot, but four, all fragmented, full of gaping black holes, all mediated by this character who knows nothing. One is Leonard's narrative as he sees it, as he tries to avenge his wife's murder. The second is told in monochrome flashback (or whatever this is called in a film that runs backward), mostly told in mysterious phone calls, and seem to flesh out the gaps missing in the first plot, but actually creates more. The third is the 'real' plot that may have something to do with cops, snitches, femmes fatales, or may be hallucinated, misremembered by Leonard, or simply planted there as cover for another plot, or may not even exist at all. The fourth is the story of Sammy, who suffered the same 'condition' as Leonard.

All four are obviously connected with each other to create a discordant fugue, but each undermines the other; in a sense, hell is other plots, and Leonard is in hell. We can only take the opening sequence, where Leonard stands holding a fading photograph over a dead man's bloody body as the only 'reliable' image, and in this 'reliable' image, another, the photograph, is slipping away, ungraspable, like Leonard's memory, like the film.

In another sense, though, what this film does is what any detective story does, which is work its way bakwards from the crime to its source. This is what Dupin, Holmes and Poirot do, followed by legions of TV and movie detectvies. This film just takes this journey literally. In a conventional detective story, this travelling into the past is a way of making the present and future safe, of reasserting order, of filling up the gaps. As Leonard doesn't succeed in reaching the source, and as the audience flounders too, there can be no reassertion of present and future.

Leonard is the logical conclusion of a long line of anti-detectives, figures who do not solve the crime, who are personally implicated in the investigation, and are eventually destroyed by it. 'Vertigo''s Scottie Ferguson is the most famous example, others include 'The Spider's Strategem', 'Blow-up' and 'The Parallax View'. These films offer detectives who do not order chaos, who cannot reorder the world, in the way Holmes used to. Crime, solution and detective get lost in a temporal vacuum, never to be saved.

These abstractions are firmly grounded in 'Memento' in the body and the eye; Guy Pearce's rather splendid physique as palimpsest, where history is recorded at random, where the keys of interpretation are lost. The split between mind and body is complete, and with it the essence of our unified humanity. Similarly, with all the Polaroids he takes, the camera may never lie, but, as discrete entities, images are meaningless, in narrative terms anyway.

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