Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Tobolowsky
Let me state at the outset that I will not be revealing any spoilers in this review of the DVD of Memento. That’s not because I’m a very nice person — it’s because I am a big sadist. The more I tell you, the less surprised you will be when this movie, with its twists and turns and sneaky determination, punches you in the stomach. And, believe me, Memento will punch you hard, if you pay attention.
Let me also state that if you like movies where you don’t have to pay attention, then you shouldn’t have anything to do with Memento. I say this for your own protection.
Quick plot summary: Former insurance investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is searching for a man who he believes raped and murdered his wife. He has a serious obstacle in this search: his “condition.” Because of his “condition,” as he explains to countless people in Memento, Leonard cannot make new memories; he has to start over every few minutes and figure out exactly where he is, who he’s talking to, and what he’s trying to do. Unless he writes new information down immediately, or tattoos it on his own body, he will forget it. This is a fairly significant obstacle, as you might imagine.
To underscore this difficulty, the movie moves two different directions in time. Director Christopher Nolan accomplishes this narrative sleight-of-hand with ease and poise and patience; one minute we’re cringing with what we thought was dramatic irony, and the next we learn that we don’t know what we thought we knew. We’re really no better off than Leonard is. It’s exasperating and perfect.
I can say no more about the actual movie itself without giving it away, other than to say that Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, and Carrie-Anne Moss all give great performances here. I haven’t seen any other reviewer say anything about them, because they’re too busy ooh-ing and aah-ing about all the technical and filmic aspects of the movie. They’re all great and they’ll maybe get a tiny shred of credit for it in about ten years. Just remember you heard it here first.
About the DVD itself: it looks great (not spectacular maybe, but great nonetheless) and sounds great (Dolby Digital 5.1 with two-channel surround sound will do that for you), but you don’t care about that. You want to hear about the extras. Well, they’re not overwhelming, and that’s good. You get a shortish interview with the director and bios on everyone and trailers, but big deal for all of those. There is a “tattoo gallery” of Leonard’s body, which is a great idea but extremely hard to navigate. There are no deleted scenes, but you do get to read (on-screen) the short story the movie is based on, written by the director’s brother Jonathan, so okay, fine, whatever. The DVD does reproduce the semi-official http://www.otnemem.com Web site, which actually changes your opinion about what you’ve seen before.
But there’s no commentary track. This rocks. Usually, I love a commentary track, but I’m so glad this DVD doesn’t have one. It allows every viewer to continue to have, and readjust, his or her own opinion about what’s really going on in this movie. Nolan has stated in interviews that Memento really does, in fact, make perfect sense if you pay careful enough attention. I really hope that he keeps his mouth shut forever about what he thinks that is. There’s something about NOT really being able to know the “real” answer that is thrilling and perfect for this movie, since it traffics in the realm of life’s ultimate unknowability.
Geez, did I just write that?