Monday, December 27, 2010


Memento is not Christopher Nolan’s debut film, but it is the film that rocketed him into the consciousness of the film world at large – and for good reason. Memento might be a simple detective tale, a man avenging his wife’s death, but what makes Memento incredibly unique is the way it’s told, and the way it’s told is uniquely Christopher Nolan.

If you haven’t seen Memento before, stop reading this review now and go find the film and watch it – just make sure you’re alert and pay attention or you’ll be lost within the first twenty minutes.

Now, those of you that have seen the film, I’m sure you can agree with me that what makes the murder/revenge tale of Memento so engaging is that it’s told backwards. Normally, if watching this kind of tale, we wouldn’t care that Shelby Leonard can’t remember more that five minutes at a time and keeps notes on what happens as the people around him double cross him. However, instead of letting us watch Shelby’s lement stage by stage as it progresses to it’s ultimate end, Nolan puts the viewer into Shelby’s confusion by telling the story backwards – starting at the end and progressing to the beginning. Doing this makes the significance of what would have otherwise been at the end of the film (but is instead at the beginning) so much more potent – Shelby doesn’t understand the true meaning, and neither do we until we reach the beginning and see the event that led us there.

Memento also has something else that is the hallmark of a Nolan film – three incredible performances. Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss & Joe Pantoliano each give amazing performances in this film, which is an astounding thing. Guy Pearce has to master the art of approaching each scene as though he doesn’t know why his character is there, Carrie-Anne Moss is deceptively innocent until she briefly reveals her true nature, and Joe Pantoliano manages to play the line between smarmy and trust-worthy as though it were second nature.

While Memento isn’t a perfect movie, it excels because of it’s handling. A simple story told well, is always better than a complex story told poorly. Memento is proof of that.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Leonard Shelby: I always thought the joy of reading a book is not knowing what happens next.

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