Picks and Pans Review: Memento
Memento is the Ginger Rogers of suspense films. This terrific movie, about one man's quest for vengeance, does everything a thriller is supposed to do: intrigue, involve and keep you guessing. And, like Fred Astaire's most famous dancing partner, it does it all backward.
The movie opens with its protagonist, Leonard (Pearce), holding a Polaroid showing the blood-spattered head of a man he has just shot. In the next scene we see Leonard shooting the man. And so on, each successive scene chronologically preceding the one it follows. The reverse storytelling reflects Leonard's own impaired mind. He has no short-term memory, the result of being bashed in the head by the man who Leonard believes raped and murdered his wife. It is this man whom Leonard seeks to find and kill. Because he can't remember whom he met 10 minutes ago, he has developed coping mechanisms: He takes Polaroids of people and writes reminders ("Do not believe his lies") on the back. He also tattoos important info (the first name and license plate number of his wife's killer) on his body so he won't forget it.
Tautly written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento grows ever more complex as it unfolds. Even Leonard may not be the man he remembers. Pearce (L.A. Confidential) is a revelation in the tricky leading role. Moss and Pantoliano, playing a barkeep and a pal who aid Leonard, are also first-rate. One leaves Memento eager to catch it again to make sure the pieces fit and to look for clues missed the first time around. And yes, it's even more satisfying on a repeat viewing. (R)
Bottom Line: Worth remembering
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