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October 20, 2020
 

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Icon movie review: Memento

Nolan’s inventive style of telling the story reconfigures the film into something new entirely

Review by Wilson
If you’ve been paying attention to worldwide theater re-openings, you know there is one movie whose release date seems to be tumbling perilously into the future, Christopher Nolan’s newest film TENET.

Nolan (INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT) is known for his ability to turn seemingly-complex plots into high-caliber entertainment. In anticipation of his newest film, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit my favorite film of his: MEMENTO.

MEMENTO follows Leonard Shelby (GUY PEARCE), a man with short-term memory loss who is consumed by his quest to track down his wife’s murderer. How does one with short-term memory loss track down a murderer? By writing notes to yourself, lots and lots of notes (the really important ones get tattooed on you).

The film proceeds like a fairly straightforward detective thriller as Shelby is joined in his quest by Natalie (CARRIE-ANNE MOSS) and Teddy (JOE PANTOLIANO). 

The plot mechanics of MEMENTO could be rather boring, but Nolan’s inventive style of telling the story reconfigures the film into something new entirely.

Throughout the film, two timelines are shown to the audience moving in reverse, one proceeding forward chronologically (which is in black and white) and one moving backward chronologically (shown in color). The film’s climax is actually the midpoint of the chronology of the story world. 

OK, OK, even I was confusing myself writing that out, but hopefully you can trust me on two points: 1) the film is much clearer than my description, and 2) that isn’t the point.

The point is that the film is a treatise on how memory shapes who we are. Shelby is a man consumed by vengeance, but even he has trouble remembering what he’s doing after short periods of time. In one of the funnier scenes, Shelby forgets why he’s running, spots a man, and thinks he’s chasing him. Only after the man shoots at him does he realize that he’s actually running away from him. 

Notably, the performances in the film are exceptional, particularly PEARCE who was only better one time (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), and the cinematography by Wally Pfister and editing by Dody Dorn superbly accentuate Nolan’s winding mystery.

MEMENTO showcases Nolan at his roots when he only had $9m to make a movie instead of the $205m he received to make TENET. It’s before he helmed a major franchise and when he was making more indie fare that doubled down on the labyrinthine storytelling structure with solid-but-not-A-list talent.

It’s my favorite Nolan film because he does not do everything that bogs down his later work (relying too heavily on plot exposition, leaving major plot holes that invalidate the plot*, and so on).

MEMENTO is a fine thriller and deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

Rating: 
Rating: 4 out of a possible 5
-Reviewed by Wilson
MEMENTO is rated R for violence, language, and some drug content

Interested in watching this movie tonight? Here’s how:

Amazon
• Open the Amazon streaming platform on your streaming service provider (such as Smart TV, Roku, computer)
• Search for MEMENTO in the search bar. Select the video.
• Click “Rent Movie” in HD for $2.99

Google Play
• Open the Google Play streaming platform on your streaming service provider (such as Smart TV, Roku, computer)
• Search for MEMENTO in the search bar. Select the video.
• Click “Rent Movie” in HD for $2.99

Meet our movie reviewer
“Wilson” is an alias for this reviewer, taken from Wilson the volleyball in CAST AWAY (2000). Wilson has been an avid movie watcher for more than a decade, with hundreds of movies viewed in that time ranging from classics of American cinema to international and independent features. Wilson’s writing is inspired by the film criticism of Roger Ebert.

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