After seeing what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman film franchise after Batman Begins, I became a devoted fan of his back in 2005. In the summer of 2008, that same fangasm I had experienced with the first movie reappeared in the form of The Dark Knight, which still stands as my number one favorite movie. So yeah, I'm a Nolan fanboy who will verbally punch you in the face if you say anything bad about him. I'm not ashamed to admit that.
That being said, I felt I had to see Memento, and not just because he wrote it and directed it. It was because I was told that this movie would blow my mind, and as far as I am concerned, it did.
Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a former insurance fraud investigator who wakes up in the middle of the night to hear a noise from his wife in the bathroom. Grabbing a gun, he enters the bathroom to find his wife had been raped and killed by two thugs who had broken into the house. Shooting one, Leonard is knocked out by the other one with a severe blow to the head and the thug escapes. Waking up, Leonard realizes that something is wrong and discovers that he now suffers from anterograde amnesia because of the blow to his head. This renders his brain able to remember all events before the incident but unable to store new memories, making him like Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates, except his memory fades every five minutes instead of every day like Drew's does.
Battling this condition, Leonard becomes filled with vengeance and is determined to find the man who killed his wife despite what he views as a controllable setback. To cope with the constant memory loss, Leonard lives under a system of notes, photographs, and tattoos on his body which constantly remind him of information about people, places, and events that have occurred. Besides the system, Leonard is aided by Teddy (Joe Pantoliano who played Cypher in The Matrix) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss who played Trinity in The Matrix), neither of whom he can trust because of his contradictory notes and faulty memory.
The biggest triumph of the movie isn't necessarily the story, but the way that it is told. The movie is told in two sections that constantly interchange with each other periodically throughout the movie. One section is filmed completely in black and white and tells the story chronologically from the beginning of the film. The other sections are in color, but are told in reverse order from the very end of the movie to the beginning, allowing both these sections and the black-and-white sections to meet in the middle, thus creating a complete narrative. These sections, especially the ones in color, really mirror the way Leonard's mind works in the movie, telling the story five minutes at a time, but never showing what happens before the current action; confusing the audience and immersing them in to the actions on screen just like Leonard.
The other strength of the movie is its acting, especially from Guy Pearce as Leonard. Told entirely from his point of view, Guy Pearce gives a calm and convincing performance of a driven man who is not sure of reality but trying to hold it all together. Possibly because of his earlier role as Cypher from the Matrix, Joe Pantoliano's character only adds to both Leonard's and the audience's suspicions, as his nice guy routine gradually fills with holes and makes you wonder what he knows that Leonard does not. The same can be said of Carrie-Anne Moss in this film, whose role in the scheme of things is quickly subject to questioning and doubt from the audience.
I loved the hell out of this movie, and would recommend it to anybody who has never seen it before. There wasn't a single flaw I found in its story-telling, acting, or structure....that is what made it perfect. Despite being a perfect movie for me or a first-timer, it is not a movie that will go among my favorites for one simple reason: I cannot watch it again. It's the type of movie that sucks you in and immerses you into Leonard's world the first time you watch, constantly throwing you curve balls with its structure and keeping you guessing till the very end. However, once you have seen it and you know the mystery, the experience is never the same the second time...and feels kind of empty in comparison. A must-see for those who haven't but not one to see again.