Memento is an old-fashioned noir-type mystery thriller with an intriguing, ingenious twist: outfitting the entire film with a style that mirrors the protagonist's own mental condition while giving the poor viewer(s) his own perspective as well. It is masterfully filmed and edited in such a way that it is chronologically presented backwards (with two initially separate, parallel storylines -- the main one, shot in color, is the chronologically-backwards story with scenes that intercut with those of the other story, which is filmed more like a documentary, shot in black & white, and mostly takes place inside a motel room with the main character narrating, talking about the effects of his condition, etc.) While the average viewer may already be put off by such a complicated, confusing format, it is a very original premise that is well worth the struggle to figure out.
Acting is solid across the board, as is the writing, directing, etc., but special kudos must be extended to the very talented editor Dody Dorn, who successfully managed to put all of these fragments together and help them flow in a smooth, healthy manner that is not easy to pull off.
One of the most memorable (bad pun?) films you're likely to ever see, Memento is an instant classic due to its groundbreaking narrative style and impressive dramatic undertones. For those jaded moviegoers who seek something to keep them awake, interested, and constantly thinking, there couldn't be a better choice than this film.
"Some memories are best forgotten"
Memento is a brilliant, inventive, and challenging film. It's also Christopher Nolan's first masterpiece. He had already shown everyone that he was skilled with his short, black and white film, Following; but this is where we saw his talent for what it was really worth. He manipulates what we are seeing by showing us everything in reverse order. The scene that starts the movie is supposedly the end, but in the way he tells it, it's really the beginning. In the same way the end is really the beginning. You could take the movie, turn it around, and it would still make sense. It would just have a different tone to it. That's not important though.
So the story is told backwards or so we are supposed to think. Leonard has no short term memory. In order to have any idea what is going on at all, he must write down notes, take pictures, and sometimes even tattoo himself. He has a mission. He is trying to track down the man that killed and raped him wife, and also took his short term memory in the process. The great thing about how Nolan films the story is that we think we know the ending(since we are shown it at the start), but in reality, the ending(although it did happen) didn't happen in the context we thought it did. I know this all sounds very confusing, but watch the film and be ready to be amazed by how brilliant everything about it is. It's one of cleverest movies I have seen. Nolan has a way of making smart, entertaining films; and this one is up their with his best.
The first time I watched Memento; I remember wondering after each independent scene why it was done this way. It made no sense to me why all suspense would be thrown out the window. We already knew everything we really needed to know. You may have the same feeling the first time you watch it. As the film goes on though, events will change your mind.
Memento is truly a unique, one of a kind film experience. There's a reason Christopher Nolan is my favorite director, and it is because every time he makes a movie; I get the feeling that I am watching something that has never been done and couldn't been done by anyone else. A lot of movies feel a lot alike. A lot of filmmakers feel a lot alike. Nolan is in a distinct class of filmmakers that are entirely their own. His movies, his ideas, and his decisions are entirely his. That's what makes me love everything he does from Following to Inception. That's also how I know I am going to love the end of The Batman Trilogy.
"Memento" takes an intriguing premise and expounds on it when its coupled with murder and mystery. The editing better be good if you're gonna be playing the events of the movie backwards, and I proudly say that Nolan did a breathtakingly fantastic job. A mesmerizingly innovative movie that takes a seemingly complicated style of presentation and delivers it so that audience members are given a puzzle easy enough to deal with but fascinating enough to be engrossing. "Memento" entrusts the viewers with its bold approach. And because of this backwards storytelling, it demands viewers to genuinely predict how the future events came about. Sensational. A one-of-a-kind. Unfortunately, character development somewhat takes a back seat during these events, the cinematography/camerawork is generic at best, and there's poor pacing during the first half of the movie, but the narrative of "Memento" is so commanding that it overpowers the flaws of this movie. After rewatching this film, I notice that though the movie has an ingenious premise with a fleshed out and cohesive approach to how to present its narrative, there are pacing issues in the first hour. Not a lot of developments occur, but its almost like the stage is being set up for a grand spectacle for the last few moments.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is a man who suffers from short term amnesia. He can't make new memories. The last memory he has, is of his wife... dying. Leonard knows one thing; his wife was murdered. He doesn't know by whom though and sets out to find her killer, with his condition causing an obvious problem. So as not to forget any information he comes across, it has to be taken, either in photograph or tattooed to his body. Every waking day he has, is a fresh start and a fresh investigation with people manipulating him along the way. Or is he manipulating his own mind...?
With the arrival of Quentin Tarantino in the early 90's and his films "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction", it became cool again, to deliver films in different time frames and to manipulate the chronology of the narrative. Tarantino was by no means the first, but he influenced a new generation of filmmakers. There was an abundance of low-budget crime thrillers that attempted to emulate his success. It wasn't until Christopher Nolan delivered this though, that even Tarantino had been surpassed.
According to Nolan, the best place to start his story, is at the end. Who am I to question that? Who am I to question one the finest independant films to cross across in years? He does indeed start at the end of the film, working his way back to the beginning and taking you through one of the most jaw dropping and confusing films I've ever seen... and I've seen a lot. Straight away, we know how this story plays out but the skill is in finding out why.
Not only is the narrative manipulated but the most impressive thing about this, is how we participate in the main characters frame of mind. He is us, as we try to decipher an elaborate murder mystery, in reverse order. If your not carefully listening or observing, this will leave you miles behind. Rarely does a film demand such unconditional attention and still have you scratching your head. It's not only the accomplished direction or the vice-like script that's impresses though. Guy Pearce's central performance is also marvellous. He displays the perfect amount of vacantness, unsure of himself and others, with glimmers of paranoia and despair. Without a performance to capture this characters bewilderment, it wouldn't have worked as well as it does.
The tag-line for this was... "Some memories are best forgotten". The same can't be said for this film. It won't allow you to forget it. An absolutely gripping and perplexing modern noir from Nolan and one of the finest and most orginal films for a very long time.
Having watched this film numerous times, it still never fails to impress. Iconic for it's unique back to front storytelling and personal investigation into forgotten clues, this film has Murder, Mystery and Suspense, enjoyable performances by Guy Pearc and Joe Pantoliano and is a film like no other.