Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memento_(film)
Christopher Nolan’s more recent box office endeavors-The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, to be exact-are very impressive, to say the least. His unconventional filming technique and taste in screenplays and cast are but two chief ingredients in the smorgasbord of brilliance we, the audience refer to as his masterpieces. There’s an extra ingredient, I’ve noticed, that provides each of the films I’ve seen with that extra kick and keeps the lines long, its constituents demanding seconds and thirds even though each helping is more satisfying than the last: the psychological element within each film. Nolan isn’t afraid-scratch that-thoroughly enjoys exploring the human condition, whether it involves the mind a troubled billionaire leading a double life, or those involved in the noble art of corporate espionage. Memento is another example of Nolan’s prowess in the field of psychologically-laced drama and suspense, but unlike Inception it deals not with dreams, but with memory.
Memento is centered around Leonard “Lenny” Shelby (played by Guy Pearce), a former insurance claims investigator who had the great misfortune of witnessing his wife’s gruesome murder, only to have his head bashed in by one of the assailants, causing what we in the field (psychology) like to call “anterograge amnesia”-the inability to form new memories. Day after day Shelby is made to restart his life after a very brief period of time, but he manages to counter that by leaving various mementos (hence the title) about him, usually on his person in the form of what Carrie-Anne Moss’ character refers to as “freaky tattoos”. The film’s plot is engaging right from the beginning and offers sharp and sudden twists and turns in generous yet appropriate proportions. A downside to this is, I felt, is that I felt that the plot took more turns than it probably should have and left me confused in some instances. As well as that, the history behind some of the characters remains incompletely explained by film’s end. Still, with each twist of the ‘line I felt my eyes widen more and more, drawing me further and further into perpetually repeating two-storied maze we call Shelby’s memory and predicament. The kicker to all this? I mentioned it earlier, and let this sink in-he keeps forgetting what happened every single time. In addition to all that, there also exists a nice and somewhat (I feel) touching side story that plays two roles: sums up the research of the time on anterograde amnesia, and offers more insight into Shelby’s history and psyche. What makes this film even more unconventional and intriguing is the way it’s told: backwards. You witness everything from end to the beginning, and as for the recapitulation, well, I’ll let you watch and look out for that. One final thing about the plot: it shows just how easily someone in a corner can resort to violence, not because of a disability, but because of the circumstances. As I said, Memento’s plot is rich with detail and twists that keep you at attentive and in a constant state of climax, desperate for the next three seconds to elapse.
The acting in Memento was solid: Guy Pearce played the role of an amnesiac wonderfully, consistently explaining and re-explaining his case as if each time were his first. The character of Shelby may come off as a bit of a sociopath to some, but again that’s only because he can’t remember the preceding events. The character of Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) is sly, obnoxious, and quite annoying, but the viewer does get the feeling that he has good intentions, but there’s a lot more to him than we think and you’ll see this from the beginning. Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) serves as Shelby’s informant, despite their personal history remaining a mystery (at least to me). Their relationship is quite complex and the film hints at some interest on Natalie’s part in Shelby, even though it could just be sympathy, as the film suggests. Nonetheless, she comes through for him when needed, despite fooling in one or two instances owing to the desperation of her situation. All in all each of the film’s actors-those I’ve mentioned and otherwise-put on a solid performance that carried the plot beautifully into the audience’s minds and planted it there to stay for a very, very long time.
The movie practically stinks of Nolan, not just because of the intricacies of the plot, but also because of the cameraplay. Nolan’s signature brief flashes into the past make their presence known here throughout. I also liked how the motel room scenes that, to me, served as central stop/ transitional role in the movie were shot in black and white, as well as the reversions to these scenes happening when they did, offering more intrigue and intemsity to the story.
As I always like to say, nothing (if very few) is without its downsides. I mentioned the loose ends that still remained by the end of the movie, such as the relationship between Natalie and Leonard, how Teddy came along if not by chance, and other questions I can’t think of right now. I also briefly lost track of the plot a couple of times due partly to the odd twist here and there, but mostly to the reversion sequences and the information relayed through them. There were also one or two hiccups in the acting I felt, but these were insignificant and hardly extract from the experience.
Overall, if you haven’t seen Memento already, then stop slacking and get the f*ck on it. If you aren’t bought when you hear about the plot, don’t stick to judging the book by its cover (or rather the movie by its poster)-the plot, however complex one may find it, smooths itself out with the progression of the movie and will suck you in as it does. With that I conclude my first movie review. I hope you enjoyed reading it, or better yet, enjoyed watching Memento.
Unless you already forgot how it went, that is.
Final score: 9.4/10
Y’all take care now
Shout-out to my friend, Kanzi, whose food blog, http://tastingthyme.wordpress.com/ just went up