Memento (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/10/2000

Brilliant and original twist on the traditional detective thriller – one of the best films of the year.

Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man obsessed with hunting down and killing the man responsible for the rape and murder of his wife. Unfortunately, his investigation is hampered by the fact that he suffers from a severe short-term memory condition (caused by a blow to the head from his wife’s attacker), meaning that he can only remember things in fifteen-minute blocks. He is therefore forced to leave himself clues, by means of written notes, annotated Polaroid's, and - in the case of "facts" – tattoos on his body, never quite sure which of the people he meets are people he’s met before...

The brilliance of Memento lies in its intricate structure – it is filmed backwards, with the ‘last’ scene first and so on, with each scene corresponding to the length of one of Shelby’s ‘blocks’ of memory. These scenes, in turn are interspersed with black and white scenes of Shelby in his motel room, telling the story of a man with a similar condition, someone whose case he’d worked on as an Insurance Claims Investigator, before his accident.

As the two story threads converge (one backwards, one forwards), the audience is required to do a lot of work, but this is part of the fun, and is infinitely rewarded by the stunning climax of the film.

The performances are superb. Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Ann Moss (both of whom were in The Matrix) are perfectly cast as Shelby’s suspiciously helpful "friend" and a femme fatale, respectively. Pearce is the stand-out though, eliciting sympathy and hinting at the rage behind his obsession, while at the same time leavening the character with moments of jet-black humour.

British director Christopher Nolan (who made last year’s little-seen Following) wrote and directed the film from a short story by his brother, and one could almost resent his swift move to the States if it weren’t for the fact that the movie is so damned good.

Unmissable!! Running time: 113 mins

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 13:52

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