Memento is a 2000 psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Guy Pearce in the lead role. It is cited as one of the director’s best films and also one of the best overall of the decade.
It is about a man who suffers from amnesia after the intruders attacked his wife and he hit the head. He has to find and kill the murderer of his wife, but in order to do that, he writes the clues on his body as a reminder because of his condition. The movie is presented in an unusual order, it starts with the ending and then goes backwards to the beginning. But it also has some black-and-white sequences which are shown in chronological order. It is of course very inventive and influential in this approach. Very original, but also very well executed. The editing here is remarkable with each and every scene connected perfectly and deftly edited which was no easy task. And I like its pacing which is unusually slow for a modern thriller which is why Memento can also be considered a neo-noir.
I also like the beginning and the whole first half, but the resolution I was a not a fan of as it is too convoluted and difficult to understand. Yes, the whole movie is thematically rich with themes ranging from memory loss to very well dealt with theme of a man lost in time who has to find a way to deal with what he has done and the death of his wife. The movie is very smart and it is a drama that definitely evokes poignancy but that is a double-edged sword as it is powerful on paper but not so much in execution. I am talking about Memento’s emotional investment which is non-existent and a major problem the movie never overcomes. This is such a powerful and deeply sad story that needed much more emotion. But it is somehow cold and devoid of heartwarming sequences. I thought it should have been way too heartbreaking and hard-hitting. And that way it would have been an amazing film, but without it, it ends up being a good film and an interesting experience above anything else.
The characters are solidly developed. Leonard is naturally the highlight here as you can sense his loss and hopelessness. Both Natalie and Teddy are also memorable and well realized. The performances are okay, but nothing to write home about. The supporting characters are well acted, but Guy Pearce I was never a big fan of here. He fits the role, but he gave such a forgettable and not that good performance in a role that is essential for the movie. He isn’t bad, but not particularly good either.
The score is good as is the cinematography and of course the directing from Nolan. And the tone is well done. The movie is original in structure, but also quite authentic in its story which is even more amazing. I also liked the dialogue and I found it quite sophisticated. It is emotionally distant, but very grounded in approach and filled with excellent attention to detail which is fitting for the movie’s puzzling narrative and plot. And the ending and the overall movie is so authentic and memorable that definitely sticks with you and is so phenomenally executed which is why it is that influential. And the unpredictability factor definitely helps the film.
Memento has such an intriguing and very well executed structure with deft editing, terrific pacing and atmosphere, good characters and engaging and thematically rich story, but that story can get too convoluted, especially in the ending, and the movie is emotionally very cold which is unfortunate as the story needed it. It is an intriguing and very original film, but because it is distant and too convoluted, it never achieves the masterpiece status and it becomes more of an interesting experience than a truly powerful movie.
My Rating – 4