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

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A Deceptive Thriller

  • Dec 23, 2008
  • by
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, and the result is a film, which is in essence a neo-noir/thriller. Skillfully, Christopher Nolan avoids the all-too-familiar pitfalls of the two genres while acknowledging their inherent strengths. Rich in atmosphere and character, Memento is a modern classic and a prime example of using an intricate narrative to heighten a story's impact.

Ever since his wife was assaulted, Leonard Shelby (marvelously portrayed by Guy Pearce) has suffered from a rare disorder. His mind is incapable of creating new memories, so everything he has experienced since the attack he forgets in a matter of minutes. Left with little to live for, Leonard vows that he will avenge his wife... but this proves to be difficult without his short-term memory. Leonard relies on mementos (lists, notes, photographs, and even tattoos) to aid him in his search for the killer, but he is also forced to trust strangers. Among those that he confides in are Teddy (played by Joe Pantoliano, with an irritating smirk) a sarcastic snitch with connections on both sides of the law and Natalie (played by Carrie-Anne Moss, who straddles the line between sympathetic victim and sadistic seductress), the girlfriend of a missing drug dealer. As Leonard follows the clues it becomes apparent that the people he surround himself with are not what he perceived them to be. They are either exploiting his disability for their own gain or manipulating him to keep him from the shocking truth about his wife's death and the identity of her killer. Leonard realizes that he can trust no one, not even himself.
Unusual reminders...

When Memento was released, it was hailed as a visionary piece of filmmaking and it's clear that the greatest star of the film is its story, which unfolds in a series of segments shown in reversed chronological order. This method, which might have spoiled the ending in any other film, is miraculous in that it places the story's climax in the beginning of the film and then allows the audience to see what events lead up to that final act. In recent years many filmmakers have played with viewers' expectations and intentionally subverted those expectations, leading to mixed results. Often filmmakers that embrace such an unorthodox narrative to tell a story do so to individualize their films, but if their films had were to be edited into a more typical narrative structure, then they would lose their originality. Not so with Memento. Its narrative isn't just a manipulative gimmick to keep audiences interested. The story almost requires this dyslexic treatment so that viewers will gain greater insight into the protagonist's dilemma.
I can't remember...

Another unique aspect is its psychological inner workings, which suggests many things about the nature of corruption and revenge. If one were capable of forgetting their past transgressions, are they then purified by their ignorance of those transgressions or are they forever condemned to suffer the consequences of their actions... again... and again... and again? Do our memories determine who we are or does our character shape our memories to suit our needs? If only we knew; if only we could remember.
A Deceptive Thriller

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May 16, 2009
This was one of the better films of 2001 right up there with Mulholland Drive. Easily, those two were about the only films I watched twice in the theatres that year. Wait a aminute! I sawthat horror film Amelie twice that year in the multiplex too! LOL
May 16, 2009
I can only partially agree with you there. 2001 was a year of masterpieces. Between The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Donnie Darko, Mulholland Dr., Memento, The Devil's Backbone, A Beautiful Mind, and some other films I can't recall at the moment, it was one of the best years for fans of the cinema. I was certainly happy that year. :)
May 16, 2009
I saw Donnie Darko & Devil's Backbone later on I think on DVD but never had the chance to see those in my local theatres. That kinda sucked but oh well. I did purchase them for my collection. :-)~
More Memento reviews
review by . March 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** 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, …
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 …
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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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