Writer/director Christopher Nolan’s exhilarating modern noir tells the story, in reverse order, of a man plagued by short-term memory loss who must overcome his own illness in order to solve who murdered his wife.
Working from a series of Polaroid pictures with notes scratched into them, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce, “”L.A. Confidential””) follows clues tattooed on his body that he hopes point him to his wife’s killer. Considering the fact that he can not remember facts much longer than 15 minutes, Leonard must rely on strangers – like the ardent Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) or the suspicious Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, “”The Matrix””) – to assist him on his mission. The problem is he’s never really sure whether or not these people are trying to help him or exploit him to achieve their own sinister objectives. And, thanks to the film’s reversionary style, neither are we. Nolan’s noir takes bold leaps on multiple levels, from characterization, tone and mood to plot development. The director’s brilliant attention to narrative structure serves as the glue that holds the whole project together, forcing us to pay close attention and learn several things in advance, only to find out their importance minutes later. Pearce gives an admirably vacant portrayal of a man driven by hatred, but incapable of ever completing his task. And “”Memento”” even advances its original theory when it suggests that Leonard may have already enacted his revenge, but just doesn’t remember it. Such a gorgeous twist can only work in a thriller wound as tightly as this. Unlike its tangled counterpart, “”The Usual Suspects,”” Nolan’s “”Memento”” lacks that revealing conclusion that wraps everything up in a neat little package. Instead, the film’s climax, which leaves you somewhere in the middle of the narrative, only unearths more questions, guaranteeing that you’ll be discussing this one long after you’ve popped the disc out of your player. A Sundance smash, “”Memento”” has yet to be challenged for the title, “”Best Film of 2001.””Grade: ATHE EXTRASOne wold hope for a few more revelation on the “”Memento”” DVD. You don’t get them here, but the disc, packaged by Columbia TriStar, is entertaining none the less. Anyone who checked out the film’s website, otnemem.com (it’s memento backwards), will recognize the documents enclosed in the film’s first feature. They further the story, taking up where the events of the film’s intro leave off and offering a bit more insight and detail about Leonard’s plight. There is also a tattoo gallery that examines the markings made on Leonard’s body, including both actual pictures and artist’s sketches. Though Nolan doesn’t provide a running commentary (I was anxious to see how he was going to approach that one), the DVD does include an interview “”N.Y. Times”” critic Elvis Mitchell conducted with the director for the Independent Film Channel. There are also director and cast biographies, as well as a trailer for Nolan first film, “”Following.”” But anyone looking for in-depth answers to “”Memento””‘s puzzles won’t find them within. Nolan instead challenges you to conjure them up yourself, and I have to thank him for that.Grade: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCEMy first viewing on “”Memento,”” in a crowded theater, was interrupted by the lady sitting behind me, who pestered her husband for two straight hours to explain what was going on. He couldn’t, and neither could I, but we both wanted her to stop talking. I appreciated being able to watch it again, at my own pace, and you will, too. It’s the type of movie that requires multiple viewings, unlocking pieces to its mystery with each new viewing, but also creating more possibilities along the way. Was Leonard successful? We may never know.Final Grade: A-