Netflix Review: Memento

Netflix Streaming
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Jorja Fox, Stephen Tobolowsky
Summit Entertainment
Originally Released: September 5, 2000

Christopher Nolan has a magnetic touch for filmmaking. His resultant products as director are always compelling viewing and – perhaps the more important aspect – make for incredible rewatchability. His movie, Memento, written by Nolan and based on a short story by his brother Jonathan Nolan, is no exception to this rule, and is conceivably one of the finest mystery and mindfuck movies ever made.

But where and how to start reviewing Memento…? I have lost count of the times I’ve watched this movie, but the convolutions throughout the plot make it exceptionally difficult to review without revealing key plot points, revelations, and, for lack of a better idiom, spoilers.

All I can really say at this point is that if you have not seen this movie before, cease reading right now and go and watch it. I mean it! Stop reading my drool here and get over to Netflix and watch the damn thing.

For those incredulous, read on, but be warned: there may be spoilers in these here waters…

Memento is the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man suffering with an inconvenient disability that makes for convenient (though effective) storytelling: anterograde amnesia, a memory disorder in which he is unable to store, and recall new memories, caused by a head injury from an confrontation by two criminals during a home invasion in which his wife (Jorja Fox) had been raped and murdered.

With the incapability to make new memories, Shelby employs numerous strategies, from Polaroids to tattoos to note-taking, in an attempt to assist him with being able to comprehend the events around him. Upon waking, his last recollection is of the attack and the murder of his wife, plus the knowledge he suffers memory disorders.

The film is presented in an unusual modern noir setting, in which, by all appearances, Shelby is looking for the last remaining criminal responsible for the death of his wife. Along the way, he is assisted or diverted or maneuvered by a variety of shady characters with their own interests in mind.

While the performances in Memento are nothing short of magnificent, the real star of film is the editing by Dody Dorn and the direction of Christopher Nolan. The film is presented out of order, and in disjointed fashion – handing out clues and revelations in a piecemeal technique.

Divided in two, Memento is one story presented in two styles. One, as a story told in reverse chronological order shown in color; and two, as a story told in chronological order shown in black-and-white set in a period before the color story. The movie is cut-and-edited between the two stories, revealing elements and clues to the story as it progresses.

This staging of the movie in this fashion is what makes it so brilliant. On the surface, with your first viewing, it’s a great mystery flick that messes with your head, that keeps you magnified to the screen. But with a subsequent viewing, you begin discovering the more subtle tidbits and clues left by Nolan you missed the first way round. By the time you’re on to multiple viewings, you discover more about the story – from the characteristics of the story-telling, to the deeper subtext and symbolism snuck into the film.

Guy Pearce, the “thunder from down under,” does an astral job in the title role, falling into the depth of a character hindered by the inability to remember. He exudes the natural frustration believably, and embraces the conceptual character nicely. Joe Pantoliano portrays Teddy in the movie, and is joined by his Matrix co-star Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays Natalie. Both also do an exceptional job in the roles, without being to overbearing so as to help Nolan in revealing his chronicle piece by piece.

Stephen Tobolowsky is also in the film, as Sammy Jankis, appearing in flashback format, materializing an infrastructural basis for Shelby’s outlook on life and manner in which he manages himself. As the plot develops, more is revealed about Jankis and his significance on the entirety of the film; while the functions of Pantoliano and Moss are kept hidden in plain sight the whole time.

While Nolan has put his name on the map with his Batman/Dark Knight saga, his genius in filmmaking pushes itself through in his other films. Memento is one without exception, and ironically will become one of the most memorable movies you’ve ever come across.

If you have not seen this one yet, go watch it right now.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


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