Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator has developed short-term memory loss after attempting to intervene in his wife's murder, and uses notes and tattoos in an attempt to hunt down her killer. — Genre: Mystery — Rating: ... more »R
Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Strong writing and an intriguing reverse storyline. Although chronologically it would not amount to much, it is amazing to watch.
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"Did I Tell You About This Before?"
Reviewer | 06/10/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one unique motion picture; a film noir the likes of which you've never seen before nor are likely to see again any time soon. Like "Jeopardy," the TV game show, "Memento," written and directed by Christopher Nolan, begins by giving you an answer (not to be confused with "the" answer), then lets you try to fill in the question. The story, told backwards (beginning with the end, the scenes are presented in reverse chronological order) is about a man named Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), who after suffering a traumatic blow to the head during an incident involving his wife (Jorja Fox), can no longer create new memories. Though he can remember everything up to the time of the incident, his short term memory lasts no longer than fifteen minutes, which renders him somewhat incapable (as you can imagine) of functioning normally. Which makes his current preoccupation especially difficult-- tracking down the man who did this to him. Ensconced in a cheap motel while he attempts to sort out his new life, Leonard must rely on Polaroid photographs and quickly scribbled notes to keep himself in the game. The particularly pertinent information he uncovers he tattoos on himself (a man's initials, a license plate number, whole sentences that remind him what he's after), thereby insuring that no vital piece of the puzzle that is now his life will be lost. But it's a tricky business, especially when it comes to remembering who he can trust. All he has to go on are his instincts and his notes; and constantly having to deal with people he's just met-- even if it is the same ones, over and over again-- puts him in a perpetually vulnerable position. He knows there are those who would exploit him because of his condition, so along with everything else, he has to keep his guard up every minute. How can he know who to trust when everyone he deals with is a stranger? It's a sticky wicket, to be sure; but he's determined to play out the hand he's been dealt, one way or another. Pearce gives a solid performance as Leonard, a guy to whom the phrase "living in the moment" takes on a whole new meaning. He makes Leonard convincing by never overplaying him, and by maintaining a kind of subtly reserved resignation laced with tentative anxiety; traits you would expect of someone in his condition. And that Pearce can make that critical connection with the audience, making Leonard someone to whom they can relate, is especially important, as this is a real "What would I do in that situation?" kind of film. Also very effective is Carrie-Anne Moss as Natalie, the woman whom Leonard may or may not be able to trust. Natalie becomes something of a mystery within the mystery, as she comes across as rather enigmatic initially; one of those characters you can't quite figure out, which allows you to identify with Leonard even more, because you know he's trying to decipher her motives, as well. The same can be said for Teddy, played by Joe Pantoliano, who becomes another constant enigma in Leonard's life. It's another case of "Who is this guy, really?" and, again, along with Leonard, it keeps you guessing until the end-- which is really the beginning. But it's that kind of movie; a first rate mystery, from end to beginning (and when you see it, you'll understand). At any rate, by the time it's over you have a pretty good idea of what fits where. Natalie, at least, tips her hand at one point; Teddy, though, is a bit tougher to figure out. And if you don't believe me, just ask Leonard. The supporting cast includes Mark Boone Junior (Burt), Stephen Tobolowsky (Sammy Jankis), Harriet Sansom Harris (Mrs. Jankis), Callum Keith Rennie (Dodd) and Larry Holden (Jimmy). This is one of those movies that leaves you asking yourself, "Who could think up something like that?" while at the same time you're saying "Yeah! give me more!" To say the least, "Memento" is emotionally involving and thoroughly engrossing, and Nolan wisely throws in some humor to give some respite to the constant, underlying tension (at one point Leonard says to Teddy, "Did I ever tell you about Jankis?" To which Teddy replies, "Only every time I see you."). Reminiscent of "Jacob's Ladder," but taken to the "Nth" degree, this is one film that will keep you talking about it-- and debating-- for a long time. And in another unusual twist, the real irony begins once the film is over, because at that point you're able to identify with Leonard even more-- there's just so much you have to remember to arrive at your final conclusion. Your best bet? Watch it again. That's the magic of the movies."
Perceptions constantly change in this one-of-a-kind story
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 05/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brilliantly directed by Christopher Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay based on a short story by his brother, Jonathan Nolan, this film had to be a huge challenge for all. The word "memento" means "remember" in Latin, and the story is about Leonard, so traumatized by a blow to the head after his wife's rape and murder, that he has lost his short-term memory. He's out for revenge and is looking for the killer, but, although he remembers his life with his wife and who he is, he cannot remember anything that has happened since. He therefore takes Polaroid shots of everyone he meets and writes notes on them. And he also tattoos things he wants to remember all over his body. The role calls out for an exceptional actor and Guy Pearce certainly does rise to the occasion. I found myself drawn to him, identifying with his condition, and joining him in his struggle to relate to the world.The story unfolds backwards, an unusual narrative technique that is tricky to use. We see a scene and think we understand. And then there is another scene that has happened prior to it, and it totally changes our perception of what is going on. Purposely, it is confusing. And purposely, there are moments of clarity where it all fits together only to become even more confusing in the next scene. Carrie Ann Moss plays a femme fatal and, as we get to know her, we are not quite sure what her motives are. Joe Pantolino is cast as in the role of Leonard's buddy, and we are constantly confused as to whether he is friend or foe.I sat there fascinated as this complicated plot unfolded, enjoying the mastery in which the director led me down different avenues of thought and also introduced questions about the moral issues involved. By the end, I was absolutely sure of nothing at all, except that I had been traveling on a roller coaster of an experience that didn't have any easy answers. While I tend to want films to have a beginning, middle and end, and a story line that is easy to follow, this an exception to the rule. I definitely recommend to those who are willing to explore this unique film, which is certainly one of a kind."
Everything a DVD should be
Evil Jim | USA | 07/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"--Quick plot synopsis: A psychological thriller about a man with short-term memory loss trying to track down his wife's killer. It does an excellent view of putting the viewer on the same level as the main character by showing the movie in reverse. ie. The first scene you see is the last one in the story.--The folks at Columbia/Tristar really went all-out to bring the viewer into this movie. The menus alone give you a perspective on the story and main character not possible in the theater. This two-disc set gives you everything you'd expect from a special edition: director's commentary; trailers; production photos; mini documentary; 5.1 surround sound, etc. But wait, there's more... It's just hidden within the maze of questions in the psychological exam that makes up the menus on both discs. If you keep searching on disc two, you'll be able to watch the movie in chronological order, which is my reason for buying this special edition. (If they don't edit this out as a spoiler, just select the Clock form the main menu, choose answer "c" five times on the questions, then put the pictures of the woman fixing the flat tire in the order of 3,4,1,2.)"
Memento Limited Edition DVDisturbs Again
Mike Stone | 08/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review will only deal with the features found on the "Memento Limited Edition 2 Disc Set", and not the merits of the movie proper.-------My only qualm with this DVD edition is the packaging. Wrapped in a tight-fitting but flimsy cardboard box, designed to look like Leonard Shelby's case file, it's almost impossible to get the discs out on first try. I find that I have to open the back to push out the innards, which tends to warp the shape of the box. Found inside are several loose sheets of paper, which look like psychological tests, notes from the case history, and, as you will soon see, the DVD's on-screen menus. The whole thing is ostensibly held together by a little plastic paper clip, whose only real purpose, I've deduced, is to get lost behind my TV set.The first thing one notices once Disc 1 of the DVD loads is a psychological test, asking the viewer to commit to memory a list of words that will go flashing by on the screen. Don't be alarmed. Although Chris Nolan and Co. have set up the DVD to look like a series of tests, you really don't have to read through or pay much attention to everything on the screen. However, because sometimes they can be quite entertaining, I suggest you do. "Why are these people laughing at you?" asks one question. "We know you did it," ominously states another. This edition can get trippy if you let it.After the memory flash, you are then asked to select from a list of words the ones you didn't see. Like I said, this isn't really a test, but an ingenious way to present the disc's main menu.Selecting WATCH plays the movie. Selecting READ allows you to choose between English or Spanish subtitles, while LISTEN allows you to hear the movie in either English or French, 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. CHAPTER sends you right to the scene selection option. And COMMENTS turns on Christopher Nolan's Director's Commentary track.In my review of the commentary track for "Following", Nolan's first movie, I called his delivery "monotone... somnolent at times" but that he's "so smart and precise about what he's saying you can easily overlook that and become engrossed in the content." I can say pretty much the same thing here. Except that, in some ways, it's a less effective track. Nolan spends a lot of time analyzing the story, deconstructing the main character, his motivations, the structure, etc. They are the kind of out-loud thoughts a screenwriter might use when figuring out his screenplay, but serve little purpose for a viewer watching the film (okay, I suppose prospective screenwriters will get some value out of it). It is thrilling to see how Nolan's big brain works, how he's thought through every situation, and has a reason for including everything in the movie. But it's just one note played over and over for an hour and a half. If Nolan had mixed things up a bit, included more anecdotal information, or behind the scenes goodies, it would have been a stellar track. As it is, it's got a very narrow appeal.
Disc 2 begins much the same way that Disc 1 did, except this time you are asked to view a series of pictures, and then are asked to select which picture from a list wasn't shown. This is, as I'm sure you have guessed, the menu for the additional material features.Selecting the COMPASS shows you a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, as well as pages from Leonard's Journal. The BOOK allows you to read Nolan's script while listening to the audio track of the movie. You are even privy to the notes he made in the margins of the script, offering further thoughts on how scenes might be filmed. The GLOBE brings forth a whole mess of international promotional material, while the BINOCULARS give the option of viewing the international and North American theatrical trailers.Selecting the SKULL starts a featurette, produced by the Sundance Channel, called "Anatomy of a Scene". Nolan, his editor, composer, producer, cinematographer, and one actor (Joey Pantoliano) discuss the whys and hows of the production. Particular emphasis is given to the opening few scenes, detailing how they were set up to gently bring the audience into the aesthetic of the film. Overall, the 25-minute segment further cements the notion that Nolan is an intelligent filmmaker, in full control of his cinematic palette.Although not listed in the features on the DVD box, the much-ballyhooed 'Chronological Version' -- playing the scenes in the order in which they happen rather than back to front -- is here. Trust me. I just watched it. I'm not going to tell you how to find this version, for I think that would be a spoiler on par with giving away the end (beginning?) of the movie. But I will say that this information is available in several places online, so those of you who get frustrated with the puzzle should easily be able to obtain the answers (if not, drop me an e-mail). And I must say, "Memento" is still quite a gripping tale when told this way. But it does make Nolan's reason for telling the story his "gimmicky" way quite clear. The problem with this feature, however, is that it doesn't offer you the option of fast forwarding or jumping from scene to scene. So unless you can watch the whole movie in one sitting, you better not press 'stop'.If you enjoyed "Memento" because it was a complex puzzle of a film, than I suspect you will enjoy this equally complex and even more puzzling DVD version. I'm almost positive that there is more to this edition than the features I've listed above. And I look forward to hunting for them in the future... or is that the past?"
Intense, intelligent, and often hilarious!
John Ritchie | 09/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only film that I can think of that comes even close to the ingenuity of Memento is The Usual Suspects. Like that way underappreciated classic, Memento gives you the ending immediately, and then spends the rest of its time showing you how it got there. Each scene offers clues and various revelations--Leonard's tattoos, why he writes what he does on Natalie's and Teddy's pictures, what happened to his wife, Leonard's job before "the incident"--each of which are thrilling mini-narratives in themselves.The acting is first rate. Guy Pearce, best known as "the one who wasn't Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential", is Leonard, a character who will intrigue you, engage your sympathy, and might even scare you by the end. Joe Pantoliano's Teddy will have you debating his intentions towards Leonard for days afterwards. The real acting coup, however, is fellow Matrix alum Carrie Anne Moss--her performace as Natalie will make you love her, hate her, and make you fiercely protective of her.The movie can only be watched on DVD. Keep the remote handy as you'll want to pause every now and then, if only to read Leonard's tattoos for various clues. After watching the movie, be sure to check out Otnemem in the Special Features section for newspaper articles, pictures, journal entries, and psychiatric reports on Mementos intriguing characters. They will help confirm what you think happened in the movie. DVD also offers the playful option of choosing to watch the movie backwards (or would it be watching the movie forward?). You will definitely consider the option after watching the movie. I haven't done it yet, but I can't wait to see the effect that it has on the movie.This movie is worth the critical hype. If you enjoyed movies like The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, The Usual Suspects, Seven, Fight Club, and Dark City (some of my personal faves), then Memento will be the crown of your DVD collection!"