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Monday, August 8, 2011

DVD Challenge #19: MEMENTO

Run-time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano & Stephen Tobolowsky

The first time I heard about this film was during my freshman year of college at UC Santa Cruz. One of my roommates owned the DVD and had left it lying around our apartment's common room. The unique DVD case caught my attention, and I figured I'd give it a shot. At the time, the only Christopher Nolan fare I had seen was the 2005 film Batman Begins, so I wasn't entirely sure just what I was getting myself into. Two hours later, as I tried to peel myself off the floor, I thought about the experience I had just endured.

I think the easiest and best way to describe Nolan's Memento is to call it innovative and imaginative. He took a difficult medical condition - anterograde amnesia, which prevents those afflicted from creating new memories - and crafted a film around the condition that can only be called a masterpiece. Based on the screenplay alone, there's enough to love about this film. In line with the main character's thought process, the film moves in reverse, starting from the "end" and slowly working its way towards the "beginning." That may sound a little confusing, but those of you who have seen the film know exactly what I'm talking about. Because we have a reversed timeline, watching Memento is a movie-watching experience unlike any you have ever had.

To add to the originality of the screenplay, Nolan offers a number of twists and turns that would shock us were we moving in the proper direction in time. The audience is literally guessing until the very final moments of the film, and the ultimate pay-off brings one of the better film endings that I've ever had the privilege to see. I'd also like to take a moment to compliment some of the scene cuts and editing that Nolan utilizes to hint towards that ultimate pay-off. There's one particular scene where Leonard (Guy Pearce) is explaining the effects of anterograde amnesia on a man named Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky) that holds a scene cut that I never noticed before today's viewing, but it offers a major clue towards the film's climax. Also, there's a moment in the climactic scenes where the film transitions from black-and-white to color in such a seamless fashion that I had to rewind the film to see exactly where the change occurred. It was just that smooth. So, kudos Mr. Nolan. Your brilliance knows no bounds.

In addition to the fantastic screenplay, we're also getting some great performances from the small but stellar cast. Pearce is a revelation as the film's lead, going as far into the role as is humanly possible. He's completely convincing as a man with short-term memory loss, and it's so easy to fall into his character. In the past, I wasn't sure whether I was too fond of either Pantoliano or Moss's characters, but after watching tonight, I've come around. In comparison to Pearce, there's really not much to say, but they definitely bring much-needed depth to their characters despite the lack of screen-time. We also get fantastic brief appearances from Tobolowsky and Harriet Sansom Harris, so be on the lookout for them.

Still, the actors would be nowhere without the brilliant screenplay that Nolan has brought to this film. The screenplay is what carries the film from start to finish, and I can guarantee you that it doesn't disappoint. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch Memento, I strongly recommend doing so. It's one of the defining films of the early 21st century, and it should be considered a near-masterpiece.

Best All-Time - #57
Best Drama - #22

2000: 7 nominations, 4 wins

Previous DVD Challenge: THE ORPHANAGE (2007)

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