Review: Memento (2000)

MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Very occasionally a film just leaves you completely speechless as you try and take in the incredible achievement you’ve just witnesses. This is why we watch movies, for these rare moments. Memento is exactly that kind of movie. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s what Christopher Nolan made before he was one of the biggest names in movie making and it absolutely displays all his genius with devastating results. Having never seen it, I requested it for the university film society although when it came around to the screening tonight part of me just wanted a warm night in rather than trudging out onto the dark, cold and icy pavements but I thought it would be rather rude not to turn up. What a treat I had in store.

This is a fantastically ambitious film because of the way the non-linear structure isn’t just a cool narrative trick, but it interacts and helps makes sense of the story and mind of the central character. I really don’t want to give much away to anyone who’s not seen it, but Guy Pearce stars as Leonard, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia after his wife was killed and murdered, causing him to suffer a brain injury during the incident, impairing his ability to store new implicit memories. Without the ability to recall short term memory, Leonard seeks vengeance for her murder. So that you don’t get completely lost from the beginning, it’s useful to know each scene shown in colour is shown in reverse order (most of the movie) and what’s shown in black and white is linear. Both timelines focus on Leonard and eventually they link up. There’s a hell of a lot more going on and you’ll discover it all in good time. The whole film is painted like the most perfect spider’s web, complex, delicate and could easily break but held together beautifully, leaving you to wonder just how such perfection can be crafted?

Sometime’s it’s difficult to know what to say about a movie and I don’t want to say too much so as not to give anything away but the structure, editing and story are so incredibly clever in a way that can only be described as one of the finest cinematic achievements I can recall. Obviously because of the non-linear narrative it is a film that requires your absolute attention but despite it’s complexities, I understood most of it and most importantly of all – despite all it’s narrative intelligence the character story shines out when it could easily have been trapped in the web. Nolan’s ability to balance such a finely crafted story with such an incredibly interesting central character is probably the film’s finest achievement and one that makes this one of the finest pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.

I’m not the kind of person who particularly revels in re-watching movies, even my favourite ones, but as soon as it ended I was absolutely desperate to see this again. When I left the screening I instinctively put my earphones in for the walk home. I took them straight out. Memento is a film I want to think about and let all it’s remarkable layers sink in. I want to talk about it. I want to understand everything it means, not just on the incredibly complex narrative level but all the emotions it conjures as well. It really is a masterpiece. A fine piece of work indeed.

Review By David Rank


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