Classic Movie Review: Memento (2000)

Posted: July 3, 2013 in Drama
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memento

 

Leonard (Guy Pierce) is an insurance investigator whose wife have been raped and murdered.  The problem is, he has short-term memory loss, Leonard sustained a brain injury when he shot one of the rapists.  He is convinced there is another rapist, and is on the trail of that rapist. Since he can’t remember anything for more than 10 minutes, Leonard writes everything down, or tattoos clues on his body.  A waitress named Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) says a guy named Teddy (Joey Pantoliano) is the rapist, and a drug dealer, who knows where her missing boyfriend, Jimmy (Larry Holden)  is.  Jimmy is also a drug dealer, so is he believable?  Is Natalie believable?  Who is Teddy?  He seems to be helping Leonard, but is he just covering up his guilt?  Leonard keeps reminding himself of the case of Sammy Jankis,(Stephen Tobolowski)  a man with short-term memory loss, who Leonard was investigating for insurance fraud, before his own short-term memory loss.  Who killed and raped Leonard’s wife?  Can Leonard remember enough to put the clues together and solve the mystery?

This is a fantastic movie. There are so many elements that are groundbreaking, the story is told backwards chronologically, and there is Leonard’s memory loss is hindering his ability to solve this crime.  The wonderful thing about the story is that the viewer really has to pay attention to what is going on, and the backwards chronology makes that extra challenging, but the challenge is what makes this fun.  The tattoos are just an added flourish to make the movie even more different from the usual murder mystery.  If viewers think there are plot holes in this movie wait until the very end, everything is explained satisfactorily.

The acting is outstanding. Guy Pearce is gripping from the beginning; he should be a big star, The viewer feels empathy for him instantly, but he is also wearing a wardrobe that makes him look like a low-rent Don Johnson, in Miami Vice, so the viewer naturally thinks, what’s going on here?  Carrie Ann Moss plays an extremely complex character, she seems sympathetic to Leonard, but her boyfriend is a shady character, so where do her loyalties lie?  Joey Pantoliano plays a grinning dirtbag, another enigmatic character, is he a good guy is he a bad guy, the truth is not told,, until the very end.

The story is written by Jonathan Nolan and his brother Christopher.  Chris Nolan is now wildly famous for his sperhero movies, but this was one of his earlier movies, and it is absolutely worth seeing, because each of the three major characters is under some kind of ethical or moral cloud, and the mystery remains until the last possible second. In addition to the backward sequencing, and memory loss, director Nolan films most of this movie in black and white, giving this movie a classic noir feel.  I cannot think of one wasted shot or word.  Watch this movie.

Memento:  A keeper.

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