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67. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Memento

April 26, 2018

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenplay: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Runtime: 113 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 2001

 

★★★★☆

 

Memento is an unconventional neo-noir that utilises the nature of its main characters mental state as a means of telling its story.

 

Working from the end to the beginning – piece by piece – the narrative weaves a story not as much driven by mystery but rather a question of how our character has gotten into this predicament. Suffering from anterograde amnesia, we experience time as he does in pockets of the present, with its backwards storytelling structure allowing us to experience these new events with him, unknowing of the past that led us there.

 

This framework not only keeps the film constantly fresh and exciting in approach, but throws the audience into a state of arrest and discomfort as with empathise with the fragility of our apparent hero in his dire predicament and quest – all the while being consciously aware that outside of his perceptions of reality that are based on imagery organisation and factual basis, that we are as susceptible to emotional manipulation as he is. Narratives weaved out of a sense of purpose even when no purpose may truly exist to strive for outside of our established worldview.

 

Guy Pearce is outstanding as our unreliable and scattershot narrator and audience voice, the enigma of his presence a constantly investing piece of drama. Carrie-Anne Moss’ duplicitous Natalie is forceful and zealous company, and Joe Pantoliano creeps up every scene as Teddy - a man we are assured is untrustworthy, although once again an assumption based on images we might not be able to fully trust.

 

Christopher Nolan’s direction and design are faultless in execution, as is Wally Pfister’s blanch cinematography. The only real shortcoming comes not from the film, but audience perception. Once the story is over, the spell is in many ways irreparably broken, yet it’s still a compelling and worthy ride.

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