Bottom Line: Must be watched–in its immaculate entirety.
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Callum Keith Rennie, Carrie-Anne Moss, Guy Pearce, Harriet Sansom Harris, Joe Pantoliano, Jorja Fox, Mark Boone Junior, Russ Fega, Stephen Tobolowsky, Thomas Lennon
Memento is the tale of a man named Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) who is hunting down the figure he believes is responsible for the rape and murder of his wife. Yet he suffers short-term memory loss, which makes his vengeful mission even more difficult to accomplish. How writer-director Christopher Nolan–basing the screenplay off of his brother Jonathan’s short story “Memento Mori”–could ever manage to take the elements key to most murder mysteries with which we are familiar, whilst still transforming the script into an analysis from the main character’s own point of view, is far beyond me. Spoiling such a film is not at all difficult to do. In the simplest of terms, the tale is told in a nonlinear format, consisting of sequences placed in reverse order (and intertwining black-and-white scenes that play out sequentially) as the character recalls his memory.
What makes this thriller so intoxicating is how little we actually know about the crime when it starts out, and how much desire there is for an additional viewing once the conclusion has been reached. Certain films are just not meant to be 100% comprehensible; filmmaker Nolan made this clear once again with his Inception a decade later. You could say it’s “the greatest mind game ever played”. It’s all about how much and what we assume, as the audience. The film opens with what we assume to be the murder of the actual criminal–before the scene ends with a “red herring”, so to speak, that makes us unsure of whether or not this is actually him. We gain significant information through all Leonard does to keep record: taking photographs of people, jotting notes on the photographs regarding whether or not he should actually trust that person, tattooing his body with notes-to-self, etc. Admittedly, the film could be plotted out sequentially, and watched that way, but it would be nowhere as much innovative and exhilarating, not to mention tremendously realistic, fun. An artfully captivating masterpiece.