Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) shine in this absolute stunner of a movie. Memento combines a bold, mind-bending script with compelling action and virtuoso performances. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, hunting down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The problem is that “the incident” that robbed Leonard of his wife also stole his ability to make new memories. Unable to retain a location, a face, or a new clue on his own, Leonard continues his search with the help of notes, Polaroids, and even homemade tattoos…
Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) shine in this absolute stunner of a movie. Memento combines a bold, mind-bending script with compelling action and virtuoso performances. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, hunting down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The problem is that “the incident” that robbed Leonard of his wife also stole his ability to make new memories. Unable to retain a location, a face, or a new clue on his own, Leonard continues his search with the help of notes, Polaroids, and even homemade tattoos for vital information.
Because of his condition, Leonard essentially lives his life in short, present-tense segments, with no clear idea of what’s just happened to him. That’s where Memento gets really interesting; the story begins at the end, and the movie jumps backward in 10-minute segments. The suspense of the movie lies not in discovering what happens, but in finding out why it happened. Amazingly, the movie achieves edge-of-your-seat excitement even as it moves backward in time, and it keeps the mind hopping as cause and effect are pieced together.
Pearce captures Leonard perfectly, conveying both the tragic romance of his quest and his wry humor in dealing with his condition. He is bolstered by several excellent supporting players, and the movie is all but stolen from him by Pantoliano, who delivers an amazing performance as Teddy, the guy who may or may not be on his side. Memento has an intriguing structure and even meditations on the nature of perception and meaning of life if you go looking for them, but it also functions just as well as a completely absorbing thriller. It’s rare to find a movie this exciting with so much intelligence behind it. —Ali Davis
Barnes and Noble
Plot twisting reaches new heights in Memento, writer/director Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed neo-noir thriller about a man whose obsessive quest to catch his wife’s rapist-murderer is hampered by an odd neurological affliction: He has no short-term memory. Memento milks this unusual idea for all it’s worth, as the hero, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), struggles to keep track of the people and places he encounters—and then almost immediately forgets—using hand-captioned Polaroid photos and an array of messages he tattoos onto his body. The film cleverly challenges narrative conventions by telling its story in reverse, moving backward, step by step, through the series of recent, violent events that Shelby has lived through but can’t remember. Pearce brings an element of dark humor to his role, as Shelby struggles with his pathological forgetfulness while the characters around him exploit his affliction to various self-serving ends. Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) shines as an oily acquaintance who treats Shelby with amused exasperation, and whose relationship to Shelby is a key to the unfolding mystery. But the film’s unusual structure is really the star here, exploring with Swiss-watch precision the impaired point of view of its protagonist, for whom life has become a never-ending series of plot twists and fades to black. The Columbia TriStar DVD includes and interview with Nolan, theatrical trailers, a TV spot, and a tattoo gallery. Gregory Baird
The challenge for young filmmakers tackling genre pieces is often considerably more than breathing new life into old familiarities. In the tradition of John Boorman’s Point Blank, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, sophomore English director Christopher Nolan’s film noir whodunit doesn’t so much deconstruct traditional narrative as shatter it outright, challenging viewers to examine the broken pieces from fresh perspectives. Musically, Nolan has again turned to David Julyan, the young Brit composer who also…