Overlooked Film of the Week- #52
I am not sure how overlooked this film really is by now. This film has been notorious for many reasons, a neo-noir that everybody has seen by now. For an independent film that was barely seen when it was first released in 2001, I think it fits the bill perfectly. Plus, its just a great excuse to write about a film that changed my cinematic vocabulary once I saw it. "Memento" was my favorite film of the 2000's. Even today, every single time I see it, my love for movies is once again realized. As I make lists of my favorite films of all time, I usually don't put films that have been released recently on them. Simply put, a movie that I have spent more time with usually means more to me than a movie that came out last week. The films being released today do have a chance of making my list, but not for several years and mileage with me. I think out of all the films released within the last 15 years, its "Memento" that will make my personal list now.
What makes "Memento" so spectacular to watch is that you're really seeing a modern retelling of an old Hollywood genre. Sometimes, when filmmakers try to put a modern twist on a genre, it hardly works out. Either a film uses too much modern and not enough genre, or vice versa. But before Christopher Nolan created some of the best Batman movies to date, he created a quiet yet totally effective modern film noir. A movie that will get under your skin instantly and have you talking about it for days.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce) is on a mission to avenge his wife. One night, Shelby's wife was violently raped and murdered, and Shelby plans to find the men responsible for the crime and kill them. The only problem is that, also on the night of the attack, Shelby's head was badly wounded. The wound rendered Shelby with a severe case of short-term memory loss. Shelby is no longer capable of making new memories, so while he is trying to figure out the mystery, he is constantly making notes, taking photos of everything, and once he gets a big clue, he has the clue tattooed on his body. Now that's committed detective work right there.
That's as much description I am going to share with you. The mind game Nolan creates from this story is only part of the fun, the other part of the fun comes from the mechanics the film is built on. There is a certain style Nolan is using when he made this movie, a little fun gimmick which gives "Memento" an extra cool bonus. I always ask people if they figured out what the gimmick is when I introduce "Memento" to new people. The line between getting it and not getting it is actually pretty even. No matter what, when people see this movie, it changes them forever.
When you think of Guy Pierce's filmography, he plays a really good bad guy. However, when I think of Guy Pierce, his villainous roles are never the first to my mind. Granted, Pierce has always been a great villain, but his work as Shelby is equally valid. Pierce proves his range by playing a gentile, naive, often innocent-looking detective. I think the major transition will surprise most fans who love Pierce's villain work. The other major roles go to "Matrix" alums Carrie Ann-Moss and Joe Pantoliano. Carrie Ann-Moss plays Natalie, a seemingly nice girl who meets Shelby and decides to help him, though it is questionable what her true motives are. Pantoliano plays Teddy, a cop who helps Shelby with his revenge mission, and even he may not be who he seems. In the world of short-term memory loss, who can say who somebody is? That's the big question in the movie, and these performances mixed with the character decisions created a beautiful picture. Also look for Mark Boone Junior and Larry Holden in the movie. Both actors worked with Nolan in "Batman Begins" in the future, and both actors do excellent work in "Memento."
There are several film-lovers in this world who love a great challenge. They feed on the adrenaline that a great movie puzzle creates. I am happy to say that I am one of those film-lovers. If you are an adventurous filmwatcher in any way, then you owe it to yourself to check "Memento" if you have not yet. It will forever change your life, and change they way you intake film.