Mark Boone Junior
Most motion pictures made today have trouble telling a compelling story in alinear fashion. For one to actually tell its story backwards and make itwork takes some real chutzpah, and the new thriller Memento does just that.Writer and director Christopher Nolan, working from a short story by his brotherJonathan, does a remarkable job giving the genre its most entertaining joltsince The Sixth Sense was released two years ago.
Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a former San Francisco insurance agent whohas a bit of a problem: he has no short-term memory. If he doesn’t take apicture or jot down a note- be it on paper or a tattoo – of someone orsomething, chances are that he is going to forget about it five to tenminutes later. It makes Leonard’s day-to-day life a bit of a chore, but itmakes his attempts to find the person who raped and murdered his wife almostimpossible (he developed his memory problem as a result of being hit frombehind by his wife’s killer). He doesn’t have too much to go on, and the twopeople that might be able to help him, a guy named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano)and a barmaid named Natalie (Carrie Anne-Moss), may actually have hadsomething to do with Leonard’s wife’s demise.
Any film that begins its story at the end and proceeds to tell it backwardsis just asking for trouble. It is a gimmick, one that can fall apart in aninstant. However, Christopher Nolan, working from his brother Jonathan’sshort story, defies those problems and sucks the viewer into Leonard’sworld, keeping us riveted as each section unfolds. I found the ending (orshould I say, beginning?) to be a bit overwhelming at first thanks to allthe information that is thrown at us at once. But once you have time toprocess it all, not to mention take in a second viewing (which I recommenddoing), you will find yourself with an overall sense of satisfaction thatthere are still people out there who can make thrillers with a degree ofcleverness, intelligence and fun.
Guy Pearce, who showed his wide range of diversity and acting talent in TheAdventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and LA Confidential (not to mention Neighbours, the Aussie soap from which he, Russell Crowe and Kylie Minogue all graduated), turns inanother impressive, multi-layered turn as Leonard, a man looking for revengewhile at the same time trying to find out who he is and what he has become.Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss are also first rate as the peopleLeonard may or may not be able to trust.
Memento, which played in European cinemas late last year (and is due on homevideo in the UK in April), could not have arrived at American cinemas at amore perfect time. In a desert of incredibly moronic movies aimed at theunder 25 set – both in age and IQ – this intelligent, fun thriller for adultsis a must see at least once, if not twice.