Memento (R) 2000
Reviewer’s Tilt (10)
Special DVD Features worth a look-None
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is the murderer, killing Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) with a 9mm bullet to the head. Don’t worry; this is no “spoiler” in the ordinary sense. This merely recounts the opening scene. Writer/director Christopher Nolan turns the murder mystery genre on its head with this superb thriller. The film gives us the “who” in the first scene, and keeps us guessing at the “why” for the remaining 110 minutes. A mysterious accident leaves Leonard with anterograde amnesia. Like Dana Carvey’s character in Clean Slate, Leonard remembers everything before the accident, but cannot make any new memories. What the movie calls a problem with Leonard’s short-term memory is actually a problem with his long-term memory. Leonard can remember things only as long as they stay in his short-term memory. He simply has no ability to transfer them to long-term memory. Accordingly, he cannot remember anything that happened the previous day or week, and rarely remembers things for more than a matter of minutes. Despite what you may have heard, this film is not shown backwards. The story plays out in short snippets, giving us information in packets roughly equal to Leonard’s short-term memory capacity.
The film intermixes both black and white and color snippets. Black and white represents a forward story progression, while color represents a reverse story progression, both of which culminate toward the opening scene. Matrix veterans Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss do an excellent job building the tension and twisting the story. At first I was disappointed that the DVD did not provide the option of watching the movie in chronological order. Unlike the typical mystery, however, where the logic of the plot twists are crucial to enjoyment of the film, the importance of this film lies not in its logic, but in its perception. A chronological viewing would greatly diminish the film, highlighting many logical inconsistencies in an otherwise impressive story. It is only in its final edit that this film reveals its true vision: None of us is that different from Leonard. Like Leonard, our perception is our reality. Our egos could not withstand the shock of seeing their images directly reflected by the world around them. Only through the filtering force of our own sheltering perception, and the mercurial nature of our memory, can we survive.
Format: Color and B&W, Widescreen anamorphic, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital 5.1), (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Extras: Cast and crew info, trailer.