A Bearded Critic
“…its raw, undeniable case of Nolan just doing what he does best, subverting expectations.” writes A Bearded Critic.
Before Christopher Nolan was, well Christopher Nolan, back before he was simulating real-life atomic bombs (Oppenheimer 2023) or creating arguably the best superhero trilogy of our time (The Dark Knight Trilogy 2005-2012), he was known by fans for his intuitive and complex thriller mystery; Memento (2000). Starring Guy Pearce (Lawless 2012, L.A. Confidential 1997) as ‘Leonard’; a man with short-term memory loss looking to track down his wife’s murderer,also co-starring Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix 1999, Jessica Jones 2015-2019) amongst a few recognisable others.
Twenty-three years later, as well as being nominated for 2 Oscars for ‘Best Writing’ and ‘Best film editing’, Memento still holds strong as a massive success, even sitting at number 56 on IMDb’s top 250 rated movies of all time. With the continued success of Nolan’s movies in the years that followed it’s often good to look back at where his successestruly began… although, ‘Some memories are best forgotten’.
“OK, so what am I doing? Oh, I’m chasing this guy. No… he’s chasing me.” – Leonard
As one of the few real movies best watched blind, I’ll do my best to stay away from any direct description of the film’s unusual storyline. Still, attention must be brought to the artistic technique of developing plot points through seemingly disjointed flashes of a timeline that the audience has yet to witness. Confused? You should be. Just like Leonard (Pearce),who suffers from memory loss, the viewers also must puttogether bits of the man’s fragmented life piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle, to understand exactly what is happening. In reverse order no less.
One of the most iconic aspects of the movie is how protagonist Leonard opts to tattoo himself head to toe with numbers, names, and quotes in order to remember what has happened to him in recent days rather than simply using a pen a paper like you and me. This striking imagery, paired with the recently returning black-and-white screenplay style, which Nolan is quickly becoming recognised for, is what elevates anotherwise weakly narrated movie to perhaps greater heights than it should be.
“You don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth.” - Teddy
So, with a muddying plot and lacklustre dialogue, how exactly does Memento become one of the biggest titles in Nolan’s remarkable back catalogue? It comes down to three things; a cast of actors giving possibly the best performances of their careers, the usual and previously unseen approach to storytelling, and its raw, undeniable case of Nolan just doing what he does best, subverting expectations.
In a recent interview, when asked why his movies can seem to be overly complicated at times, Nolan said “Don’t try to understand it, just feel it… You don’t want to understand the entire story right from the beginning. Otherwise, there’s nothing to unfold”. Looking back this statement is even more accurate when considering the overly complex movie,Memento.
There’s no denying its success is due to its exceptional script,well-directed screenplay, and intuitive editing which all come together in such a way that leaves the audience equally confused as they are amazed. However, the main takeaway should not be the movie in and of itself but rather the inspiration it gave many others in the industry to try something different.
“What’s the last thing that you do remember?” – Natalie
A Bearded Critic rating: 3.5/5