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2001 neo-noir film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Guy Pearce

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Nolan just drained me.

  • Mar 11, 2011
**** out of ****

Reverse-chronological story-telling isn't anything too new, but let me tell you; reverse-chronological story-telling, as told by Christopher Nolan, IS indeed quite new to all of us. Nolan typically enjoys challenging his audience with his mind-games, and this is one of his first grand masterpieces. He's had a damn good career so far; and "Memento" essentially put him on the map as a twisty, psychological genius. "Memento" is his best film, among others; gritty, diabolical, twisty, and completely intellectual. A friend once told me that I had to be completely awake if I wanted to watch "Memento" as it was originally intended to be watched, and I thought I'd never "get to it". I'm glad that I did, and only now do I understand why people love the film so much. Unlike some story-tellers, Nolan knows how to rape our minds. He knows how to twist our perception of what we think is a "film" or even what we think is "story-telling". He has introduced new ways of approaching things with "Memento", which is probably one of the smartest, most original films I have ever seen. Now, I can still write this review without spoiling too much. In fact, that's what I intend on doing. Spoiling the film would be a sin, just as telling you to see or not to see it would have me doing a lot of wrong. All I can say, when it comes to recommending this film, is that you need to want to watch it. You may need to watch it twice to get it. Maybe even thrice. It took me one time to understand the film, and it will probably take me another dozen before I can put it in my mental list of films that could be called the "best of the decade". I detest those kinds of lists; it just seems unfair. But if I did make one, "Memento" would be one of the best films of the 2000's. It's a fine thriller that works as a drama as well. I am not completely sure of what the film promises the viewer, but the wrong approach would be to expect a whole lot. Go in without a clue. Go in with naivety. That way, you can absorb everything and you can appreciate the film's originality. Personally, I think it's a wonderful film. It is not one with a general message, but the style leaves it with enough fun; and it's virtually a house of games ready to be opened up. Will you open up its doors? Perhaps you will. But only if you're willing to have Nolan consistently pin your brain down, and then let it breathe for a while. Either way, "Memento" never stops being the great movie that it is. It exists; and that's probably the best explanation behind my "recommendation".

"Memento" opens with a murder. We learn that the murderer intended the murder to be an act of revenge against a previous murder. The protagonist is Leonard, and his wife has been raped and murdered. First, you should know something about Leonard. He has short-term memory loss, and has to write everything down if he ever wants to remember it. This is where the plot comes in. The film tells us the story of how he finds his way to the killer through a story which it told in reverse-chronological order. Yes, it can get "confusing". But it makes you think none the less. It makes you think about who the real killer might have been. It makes you think about how the film will end properly. You ponder such thoughts, and just let the story run its course until you get your answers. Then, you are satisfied. I know I was vague with the story for this film, but giving too much away would be so very wrong of me. The strange, loopy style of the narrative gives the film a nice feel; and the film keeps you guessing (and asking). I generally liked that aspect, and the experience is absorbing. The story matters very much to the film's success, and it all pays off in the end. Some may not think that "Memento" is perfect, but if you can comprehend the experience, then you're bound to appreciate the film for what it truly is. I really, really liked it. Hell, I loved "Memento". It's awesome as a film, an experience, and a piece of though-provoking media. You won't so much as find a better film than this when it comes to mind-being reverse-chronological story-telling. Indeed, it does take a semi-special man to appreciate a film like this. But since Nolan has made it so darned accessible, you just can't help but get sucked in anyway. It's great.

Guy Pearce is somewhat of a charming yet ultimately capable actor. Perhaps his capacity is his charm; or perhaps it's the other way around. This is Pearce's best performance. It's probably what got him noticed by the general public; mostly because so many people love "Memento" for the super-awesome flick that it is. That's a hell of a way to get noticed. I suppose what makes Pearce shine here, as much as he does, is his believable antics throughout the film. His emotions and actions are completely moral, believable, and yes, even memorable. He put a lot of passion into his performance, and I'll do him a lot of justice by reviewing his performance with an equal amount of passion. He's a great actor in a great film. And then there's Joe Pantoliano, who steals the show whenever he's on-screen. This film has a damn good cast; one that is fully capable of keeping up with Nolan's genius vision. He's chosen a solid cast for a more-than-solid film. It doesn't get much better than this.

Christopher Nolan can make an intelligent film, no doubt. He made some good films before this one, but "Memento" is still his best film. When speaking of pure craftsmanship, this is a masterpiece. When speaking of pure genius, "Memento" is STILL a masterpiece. It's an ingenious dramatic thriller; and there is truly no other film out there that can match it in sheer quality. I admire it. Or perhaps I do more than that. The film is good stylistically; there are sequences shot in color while others are in black-and-white. The film is extremely well shot (something you'd expect out of a Nolan film), and has a completely demeaning atmosphere going on throughout. Some have said that it's a diabolical experience, and I agree. The film's characters seem to know more than you'd expect, initially, although we soon find out that they're less than we think they are rather than being more. The set-up evidently leaves a lot to happen, and it's good to see that Nolan does not intend on disappointing us. This film was made for people who enjoy thinking whilst watching a film. If you can listen to the story that is being told, and not get confused by its narrative style, then congrats: "Memento" is for you. Did I also mention that it has a really cool soundtrack? Yes, it even has one of those. What does "Memento" NOT have?

"Memento" is a modern masterpiece of the thriller cinema; a deceptive, perfect, and all-around great film. Yes, this is art; all good filmmaking is. It's not high art, per se, but it's art none the less. Nolan does not simply want to make a "cool" film with "Memento", but he also wants to make one that will indulge intelligent people. And believe me; it will do its job. I love most of Nolan's directorial efforts because he brings something new to each and every one of them. He does not re-use one concept once; he's always one for a new, fresh, and rewarding experience. He knows what the audience wants. Therefore, I admire his effort; which was put into "Memento". Nolan has gone on to make many other great movies other than this, but this is my favorite and forever will be. Nothing Nolan can do; nothing he can master, can truly overpower the raw intensity and mystery of "Memento". It is an experience of a film that cannot be explained, but has to be seen in order to be understood. It's not often that a film can have such a strong, intellectual impact on me, but "Memento" never misuses what others have been calling it. This film is a masterpiece, the work of an artist, and a film that deserves to be seen. As I said, not all will like it. But knowing the premise, most that pursue watching it probably will. You can't watch this movie unless you want to; that's just how it is. It may confuse you; or it may inspire you. Nolan is simply a one-of-a-kind (modern) filmmaker, and I don't imagine that he will be forgotten; especially when he's got stuff like this out on the market. This is one of the best films of 2001, and I definitely recommend watching it. You might just find solace in this deceptive and demonically atmospheric motion picture; it's both unique and provocative. Me, I just find it plain convenient as a whole. And who doesn't like a good ol' "convenient film"?

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March 11, 2011
This is a great film for sure and a great review.
March 11, 2011
still my favorite Nolan-helmed film thanks!
More Memento reviews
review by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
In the late 90's a young film maker by the name of Christopher Nolan was sharing ideas with his brother Johnathan Nolan.  During this time, Johnathan was working on a short story called Memento Mori.  An idea that Christopher Nolan liked.  They spend time sending the story back and forth to one another making changes and edits whenever they felt it possible.  After a while, Christopher Nolan decided it wouldn't make such a bad movie.  From that short story he was …
Quick Tip by . February 03, 2011
Can you really tell a story backwards and have the viewer still able to follow it. Memento succeeds, amazingly.
review by . July 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Memento is one of those rare movies that is both entertaining and educational at the same time.  Chris Nolan’s minimalist style and set up make the most out of a stellar premise to craft a movie that is highly thrilling and dramatic, in none of the traditional Hollywood senses of the words.  Guy Pierce’s best work, in my opinion, comes in this film in his portrayal of Leonard, who suffers from short-term memory loss.  Short-term memory loss is a real issue …
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2010
A film to be watched again and again. Nothing quite like it. Not one for watchers who can't concentrate. Complex and consistent.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Christopher Nolan best work. A masterpiece of film. Amazing piece of writing combined with great editing and acting.
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Great concept from an amazingly smart director. It is nice to go to movies that do a little bit of brain flexing. On top of that Guy Pearce, one of the best below-the-radar actors, nails the role. A must see.
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Great concept from an amazingly smart director. It is nice to go to movies that do a little bit of brain flexing. On top of that Guy Pearce, one of the best below-the-radar actors, nails the role. A must see.
review by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
-What Prompted You to write a Review?   This Movie to me really stands out among all the rest of the clutter. It takes a different approach to storytelling. Instead of the traditional forward-organizational-storytelling this starts from the end and builds up to the beginning, all the way keeping the audience interested.     -How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?   Acting overall was good, but the part played by Guy Pearce was Superb, he played his part perfectly …
review by . March 15, 2009
I loved this movie... so much so that I made it my screen name :). And I'm surprised that so many people haven't seen it, nearly a decade after its release.    Looking around at the world of film today, it's hard to find any fresh ideas. Memento has that freshness... by the metric ton. What a concept! A movie told in reverse chronological order, it's plot line places you inside of Lenny's (played by Guy Pearce) head... so much so that you actually become Lenny and experience …
review by . December 23, 2008
A Deceptive Thriller
With his second feature film, director Christopher Nolan (Following) created a stunning thriller. Not only is Memento an incredible accomplishment as a film, but also an impressive feat for a relatively new filmmaker. The film's screenplay, which was written by Nolan and was inspired by his brother Jonathan's short story, is nothing short of brilliant. The story taps the best ideas from both classic noir and detective films of the late 1940s, as well as more contemporary psychological suspense films, …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


MEMENTO, the second feature by writer-director Christopher Nolan (FOLLOWING), is an intricately constructed film noir that masterfully inverts time to comment on the foggy relationship between memory and truth. MEMENTO tells the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a former insurance investigator who witnesses a brutal attack on his wife. Knocked unconscious, Leonard wakes up with a rare brain condition--he no longer possesses short-term memory. He can remember his name and all the details of his past, but he can no longer make new memories. Armed with a careful system of remembering details (he compulsively snaps Polaroids and scribbles notes, then tattoos the important facts directly onto his body), the distraught Leonard goes on a manhunt to avenge his wife's death. To illustrate the unique and frightening state of the protagonist's mind (he cannot remember what happened even seconds before), Nolan takes a brilliantly successful risk in telling the story backwards. The film begins with Leonard killin...
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 2001, January 19, 2001
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 56min
Studio: Columbia Pictures
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