Movie #63: Memento (2000)


Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pierce, Carrie Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Tobolowsky

Leonard (Pierce), a former insurance investigator, has a condition where he cannot create new memories.  His wife was murdered, and he is out to find the guy who killed her.  Because of his condition, it’s very difficult for him to trust new people, and he carries a number of Polaroid pictures with notes he writes himself.  He also has a number of tattoos with key evidence in his investigation.

The story alternates and ultimately meets in the middle in the film’s finale.  One side starts with a phone conversation he has where he describes Sammy Jankis (Tobolowsky), a man who has the same condition as Leonard.  The other begins where he shoots Teddy (Pantoliano), a cop friend who’s helping him in his search, and works in reverse.


Guy Pierce does a great job in the lead role.  He can be hit-and-miss on his performances (I didn’t care for him too much in Iron Man 3), but here he carries the film.  He’s a guy you can root for, even if you end up finding out his hunt for justice this time is just another in probably a long line of self-created vendettas.  He describes Sammy Jankis’ condition and circumstances in such a way that it’s believable that Jankis’ life is actually Leonard’s.

Carrie-Anne Moss was a good strong supporting cast member.  Though suspecting at first when Leonard shows up in her now dead boyfriend Jimmy’s clothes, she still helps Leonard and I think cares for him.  Joe Pantoliano does great as a guy you are always skeptical of, but can still enjoy watching.  When he’s shot at the beginning of the film, then appears in the next scene, it keeps the audience on edge and paying attention to what happens next.


This was Christopher Nolan’s first major motion picture, and although the film only made about $40 million at the box office, it’s $5 million price tag left a lot of room for profit.  More importantly, it received wide acclaim from numerous critics.  It was also nominated for two Oscars, Best Original Screenplay and Film Editing.

Memento is a film you can only watch once, in my opinion.  I found the second viewing to be far less enjoyable because I already knew what was going to happen.  I realize this is the case with virtually every movie, but this one lost a lot of its allure, mystery, and misdirection after the first viewing.  With that said I probably won’t watch this one again.

The only way I could watch this one again is to see the scenes in chronological order, which I guess is a feature on the DVD, though I couldn’t find it when I watched it on DVD.  However, this is a great early work from Christopher Nolan, and his subsequent success should have come as no surprise after seeing a film like this.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.


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