Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 53 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A

"Memento" is a movie about memory and loss. It is sometimes poignant, sometimes alarming, sometimes creepy and sometimes even quite funny. It is also the biggest mindfuck of a movie to come down the pike since "Total Recall". You may find yourselves watching the film over and over again when it comes to home video not so much because you liked it so much but more because you wanted to figure it out.

It is also, for the most part, revolutionary filmmaking. It begins at the end of the story and then traces how the whole affair got there. I have read that this method was used once before: in the movie "Betrayal" based on a play by Harold Pinter. But for most of us, this is the first time we have seen it done. It has the same sense of playful experimentation as movies like "Groundhog Day" and "Pulp Fiction". Even taking into account the film's few flaws, it is impossible not to be fascinated by it and to sit on the edge of your seat, intrigued and sometimes frustrated and wondering what the hell will happen next.

The film is the story of Leonard (Guy Pearce): a man whose wife has been raped and murdered and he has been consumed with the desire to find the killer ever since. He has also been plagued by short term memory loss as a result of the whole experience. He can remember things for only a short period of time (it seems to change depending on what the movie wants to do in any given scene) and must, therefore, write down everything he wants to remember. The really important stuff he has tattooed on his own body: the only thing he is reasonably certain not to lose. His only accomplices on his quest for revenge are a mysterious man named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and a mysterious bartender whose motives are shady (Carrie Anne Moss). The appearance of these two in both this film and "The Matrix" shows an exemplary talent for searching out something new and unusual.

"Memento" has a great number of strengths. The structuring of the film, for one thing, is quite brilliant. By showing the film in reverse order, the film gives us the same experience as the main character has. We must really be alert, must really be thinking, in order to piece everything together and remember the sequence of events. I was really paying attention, and I was still pretty lost much of the time. I am not even sure now, so many hours later, that I know how it all fits together. This is both a good thing and a bad one. It's not often you see a movie that is so different and so unique that it's both invigorating and frustrating. That is both a compliment to the film and a backhanded insult.

The performances are very good as well. Guy Pearce is remarkable as Leonard: mysterious, vulnerable, tragic and twisted in some ways. Why this guy isn't used more often is a mystery to me. I also thought Joe and Carrie Anne were excellent in their roles, for much the same reasons as Guy. But I really want to congratulate Stephen Tobolowsky and Harriet Sansom Harris as a couple struggling (in Leonard's flashbacks) with the same malady as Leonard.
Their story is so compelling that it's almost more interesting than the main one.

But, as I said, the structure and strength of the film is also its weakness to an extent. On further inspection, I have spotted what I think are several plot holes. Such as: when Leonard is driving somewhere, he never makes a note where he is going. Wouldn't that be crucial for a man who forgets what happened two minutes ago? Another thing I spotted: if he can't remember anything since his wife's death, how can he remember that he has short term memory loss? Then again, maybe he's just faking....? Who knows. I don't. If I ever see the director and screenwriter of the film (Christopher Nolan) I shall grill him for hours on the details and let you know. It does make you think, however. Long and hard.

But you should definitely go see it. After all, I can safely say that you have never seen anything like it before. Not as far as I can remember.

Reviewer: Jones
Grade: A+

What were you doing five minutes ago? Do you remember? Honestly. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, do you remember what you were doing a mere five minutes ago? Chances are, you do. Let's take a step further back in time. Do you remember what you were doing an hour ago? If so, do you remember why you were doing it. Chances are you don't. Memory can be a funny thing. It helps us remember the most trivial of moments from years long since past, but evades when we attempt to remember moments of the same significance from mere hours before. Memory is the subject matter of "Memento". It makes memory it's tool, blurring the lines between fabrication and reality until we can no longer discern one from the other.

I asked a lot of questions to open this review, because that is all that "Memento" is: One long string of questions that are eventually answered whether you knew enough to ask the questions in the first place or not. No stone is left unturned. Scenes end where the previous one began. You have never, ever seen anything like "Memento" before and chances are you never will again.

The best way one could describe "Memento" is to describe it in nothing more than one simple, yet complex, phrase: The beginning is the end is the beginning. To explain. The film begins with what we all would suspect, from our years of movie viewing experience, is the end, hence the beginning is the end. But it is also the beginning of the film and it will lead us to the end of the film as we traditionally think of it, hence the end is the beginning. Confused yet? Intrigued? Confusion and intrigue are ingredients that become staples of your viewing diet as the story gives you answers that lead to more questions and so on and so forth. Don't blink or you may miss something. This is definitely not a film to take a bathroom break during. You will return even more disoriented than those who have remained immersed in the film while you have been answering the call of your bladder.

A word of advice. If nature calls..... Put it on hold, because you don't want to miss any of this richly told story.

The story revolves around a man named Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce). Leonard has a problem. He has no short term memory. This may not sound like much of anything, but think about this. Pretend for a moment that you can't remember anything that happened more than five minutes ago. Now let's say we're at the grocery store for fifteen minutes. You come outside only to find that you don't know which car is yours. Sucks, huh? How would you solve this problem? After a lot of head scratching and spoiled milk you would probably come across the idea of taking a picture of your car, so that you will remember it the next time you go shopping. This is what Leonard does. Only he doesn't just take pictures of his car, but rather everything that is of any importance to his life, as he sees it, at that given moment. People he meets, the place he stays at and yes, the car fall prey to the gaze of his trusty Polaroid camera.

For details of his life that are far to important to risk being lost, he inscribes them on the only thing he knows he won't lose: his skin. But would anyone really go to all this trouble just to make it through a normal purposeless life? Surely there is a method to his madness? There most certainly is and it is definitely a reason to go to all this trouble.

Something terrible happened to Leonard to make him this way. To make him lose his memory. As a curious side effect of his condition, he can remember everything about his life before the incident, but he has no memories of anything that happened afterwards, hence the Polaroids and tattoos. The last thing he can remember is finding his wife raped and murdered on the floor of their bathroom. This is what drives him. He has to find the man who is responsible for this terrible act and arrange for his one way trip from this world. Maybe then he can have his memory back and maybe not. That is the driving force in his life. To rectify the two most important parts of his life that were so viciously taken from him. He can't bring his wife back, but he surely can avenge her death and through this vengeance he may be able to avenge the death of his memory.

"Memento" is a film that could very easily have fallen on it's face. It doesn't for one very important reason. It remains devoted to it's premise at all times. The premise being that it's lead actor can't remember anything. The film has given itself some strict rules and it abides by them dutifully without fail (Well maybe it slips once, but it's so miniscule that it borders on being overly nitpicky to fault the film for it). The film tells it's story in an amazingly creative way. It begins and ends at the same time and ends and begins at the same time. How the hell is this possible you ask? Without giving to much away I will only say that there are two parallel stories about the same man that are interwoven throughout the film that culminate in the middle, or as traditional films would describe it: the end.

That's all I'm telling you, for to say anymore would be immoral and damnable on my part. This film is complex beyond complexity's wildest dreams. If you thought "The Sixth Sense", "The Usual Suspects", or "Fight Club" were complex in design and resolution, think again.
Those films are all child's play compared to "Memento".

"Memento" is anchored by a brilliant performance from Guy Pearce ("L.A. Confidential") in the role of Leonard Shelby, as well as by the brilliant direction of Christopher Nolan and let us not forget the magic that took place in the editing room. All of these factors combine in ways you cannot possibly imagine a result for when, in the opening minutes, you see a Polaroid go from being exposed to unexposed and a murder going from committed to unthought of. You are immediately immersed and will remain that way for nearly two hours.
All the while asking questions like: Who is Dodd? Why is that gun there? Who is Natalie?
Who beat her up? Why is the car window broken? Who is Teddy? Why is he always around? The answers will come, but you will never know the difference between the right and wrong answers until the very end, no matter how astute one thinks they are.

I still have goosebumps......Incredible.

What are you doing right now? I know you're reading my review. Let me rephrase that.
What are you doing after you're done reading this review? Does it really matter? Will you really remember whatever it is you choose to do tomorrow, or the next day? Whatever you had planned next no longer has any meaning. It is just the beginning of another lost memory.
If you want to begin something that you will remember years from now, you will stop what you're doing, you will get in your car and you will drive to a theater that is showing "Memento" right this moment. You will do this for one simple reason.

You will do this, because you will want to remember when it was that you saw the best film released in the United States in the year 2001 and why it was that you went in the first place.