Sometimes a director’s approach to movies is so different, it is hard to believe that the same individual was responsible for such radically different productions. Recently, this column has reviewed several films from “The Dark Knight” trilogy. These movies were directed by Christopher Nolan. One of Nolan’s first films was the highly complex thriller “Memento,” which was released in 2001.
In “Memento,” Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a crime victim who suffers from anterograde amnesia which prevents him from making new memories. He can only remember things for a few minutes. During the incident where his head was smashed, his wife was murdered, and Leonard is determined to find the killer. To facilitate his memory shortcomings, he gets many tattoos and takes many Polaroid snapshots. He believes he will be able to remember bringing the killer to justice. Our hero is assisted by Teddy (played by Joe Pantoliano), a cop, and Natalie (played by Carrie-Ann Moss), a bartender. Because of his debilitating condition, Leonard has no way of knowing if they are really his allies.
“Memento” has a nuanced and unconventional screenplay. It begins at the end of the story and moves backwards to the beginning. Nolan uses black and white to tell the story from one perspective and color for another. Persistent suspense is created because the audience rarely knows more than Leonard does.
Guy Pearce captures Leonard’s frustrations and determination well. Carrie-Ann Moss is also great as his confidant Natalie, who often helps him, but in one scene, knowing he will forget it, insults him and his late wife. Joe Pantoliano is strong as Teddy, who tries to warn Leonard about who he should and should not trust.
“Memento” is a great choice for fans of offbeat thrillers. It is sometimes hard to follow, yet it is always fascinating.