Memento review by David Richards
My guess is the creators of Memento aim to test its audiences to see how closely they are paying attention. Then they test them again and again and again.
This film was made to be watched in the theater, period. Grab a bag of microwave popcorn in the kitchen, get up off the La-Z-Boy to answer the phone, or pause to squeeze the Charmin in the bathroom, and you might as well hit the rewind button and start the movie over because you've missed something.
Memento is well-thought out, a masterpiece of a screenplay and beautifully acted. It's all of these things, yet it still could have been better. The picture constantly walks a fine line between a thought-provoking thriller and one big clump of chaotic confusion. And it often crosses the line too, as it does in the ending sequence.
It's a good film, one that I'd guess has dropped in quality since showing on the big screen, but one that will still have you thinking about it long after the credits have rolled. To see a movie of this genre in the A-grade range, rent 1995's The Usual Suspects.
Memento is told backwards.
It begins as the hero Lenny (Guy Pierce) is holding a faded Polaroid. The picture slowly goes blank and then jumps back into the camera. As we move along, we learn how Lenny seeks revenge on his wife's murderer. Throughout the duration of the film, the scenes are shown as if the main character is constantly backtracking, with Lenny's voice narrating the actions and keeping us up to speed.
There's one big catch to all of this, though. During his wife's attack, Lenny was struck too, and that injury has left him with no short-term memory.
"I know who I am, I know all about myself, I just can't make new memories. Everything fades," Lenny tells his friend Natalie (Carrie-Ann Moss).
So, our friend Lenny, determined to find his wife's killer, is forced to take notes, forced to tattoo clues on his chest and forced to do whatever he can to stay focused on his quest for revenge.
"The cops don't catch killers by sitting around remembering stuff," Lenny tells an acquaintance named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). "They collect facts, they make notes and they draw conclusions. That's how you investigate."
There is one big flaw at the start of Memento. If Lenny has no short-term memory, how can he remember he has no short-term memory?
Putting that question on the back burner, Lenny's journey is intriguing as he crosses the paths of several interesting characters. He takes pictures of every one of them, marking with pen which ones he trusts and which ones he doesn't.
One of the key problems with Lenny's mission is what's going to happen to him once he finally does get his revenge. Will he remember what he did or will he simply keep searching for someone else to kill?
At one point, Teddy asks Lenny the trivial question of why he wants to kill his wife's murderer when he isn't even going to be able to remember it?
"My wife deserves vengeance. It doesn't make any difference whether I know about it or not. Just because I don't remember, it doesn't make my actions meaningless," Lenny responds.
I still have mixed feelings about Memento. On one hand, it's one of the most original pieces of film I have ever watched. On the other, it can be difficult to follow the whole way through.
Watching this film there were times I felt like I was on a merry-go-round cruising at 65 mph wanting to get off. But just like those old classic rides, I might have felt a little uneasy while I was experiencing it for the first time, but after it was over, I was ready to go again.
****Memento is rated R for violence, language and some drug content