Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000)

As a former Psych major, I’ve heard about this movie plenty of times. During lecture especially. My professor would ask the class, “Can anyone name any examples that relate to short term memory loss?” Every single time a student would answer, “That movie Memento,” and I would always think, wow am I the only person who hasn’t seen this? Since then, I’ve transitioned over to being an English major, but psychological thrillers will always be my favorite genre of film.

Memento 1This movie is overwhelming…in the good way. I enjoy watching a movie that will challenge me, and this movie definitely rose to that occasion. I haven’t read the short story that it was based on (“Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan); however, I’m confident that C. Nolan’s adaptation of his brother’s work was above satisfactory. A lot of films are described as ‘thrillers’, but this film really was thrilling-it was exciting, I was involved with figuring out the different mind-games Nolan was playing on me, and it was everything that I enjoy in a film. I’m not familiar with Guy Pearce’s work, so I was interested to see him in a leading role. Good God Almighty, he was impressive! His character is the main focus, so we tend to sympathize with him more, and because he has anterograde amnesia, we sympathize with him even more. This makes the film so compelling-as the story unravels chronologically (cleverly in film noir style) and in reverse order (presented in color), the conflict makes more sense, but it also becomes much more frustrating. That’s what you call good film-making.
The film follows Leonard (Pearce) on his quest to find out who raped and murdered his wife. An important detail of this movie is that when Leonard tried to kill the murderer in action, he was beaten into a mirror, thus acquiring his anterograde amnesia. During his quest, we meet a few people who we aren’t sure we can trust. Keeping in mind every person he meets knows of his ‘condition’, Leonard doesn’t know who these people are when he sees them after a period of time, so he’s vulnerable. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano put in performances that increased the suspense, and their characters provided a fun ride for my entertainment pleasure.
Throughout the entire movie, it was a constant argument with myself: “Ok, yep, he did it.” “Well…I don’t know…maybe she did it.” “Screw it, I don’t know.” I was hoping that all of my confusion and frustration would be somewhat satisfied by the end, and it was. It was a wonderful epiphany; the “OOOooh” was just what I needed. I’m still thinking about the complexity of this film, and that’s okay, I love films that make me think.

“I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different.” – Memento (2000)

Pros:

  • Brain workout
  • Thrill ride
  • Mysterious characters portrayed by talented actors (Pearce, Moss, Pantoliano)
  • Film editing (the input of two separate story lines)
  • Twist ending
  • Beautifully crafted main character

Cons:

  • I wish Nolan would tell us what REALLY happened (typical Nolan movie…but it’s still so good)

Overall Rating: 9/10

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