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Memento The Movie

Updated on December 25, 2012

four and a half stars

This is a hands down amazing film. Some people might be more familiar with this director's other films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. In this film Christopher Nolan tackles what others might consider impossible. As it was told to me, Nolan came up with this idea while on a family road trip. His brother Johnathan Nolan, which assisted in writing Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was discussing a short story he wanted to write. The story was about a man with a brain condition that made it impossible for him to develop new memories. He developed this condition when his wife was allegedly murdered. Apparently the man walked in while his wife was being rapped, and he was hit over the head. Thus, the physical and mental trauma developed this brain condition. Subsequently, the man tries to find his wife's killer and murder him. Furthermore, the story is told in reverse order. Consequently, the reader would experience something similar to the main character. They would know where he was going, where he was going to end up, but they would have no idea what led him to that place. Again, this was designed to be a short story, and it sounds impossible for the screen. The whole time Johnathan was explaining the story, Christopher kept saying, "I want this to be a movie." So, he made it a movie even before his brother finished the story.

There is one quote in the film the captures it's entire purpose, and I somewhat used it already. In the beginning of the film Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), the man with the condition, explains to Burt (Mark Boone Junior), the man at the motel front desk, that he has a condition where he can not generate new memories. Burt explains that he has already told him about it. Then Burt says, "It's like you know where you're going, but you don't know where you've been." The movie is then filmed to model this. It starts with the last image of the story. Then it shows the immediately previous memory. In the beginning the memories are maybe ten to fifteen minutes long, but as the film progresses the memories become shorter.

By the end of the film, which is the beginning of the story, it is revealed a local cop named John "Teddy" Gammell (Joe Pantoliano) who has been helping Lenny has actually been lying to him for years. In the beginning of the film, the end of the story, Lenny is shown shooting Teddy in the face. Thus, leaving the audience to wonder, "Why would he shoot the cop who is helping him?" The obvious assumption is that Lenny's condition has made him incredibly confused. Teddy actually states this before he is about to be shot. However, Teddy has been lying to Lenny. Apparently, Teddy helped Lenny kill his wife's murderer - a certain John G. - years ago. However, Lenny did not remember it; therefore, he started searching for another John G. Teddy then started selecting John G.'s that were criminals in order to satisfy Lenny, while getting bad guys off the streets. However, what is even more disturbing is that Lenny's wife may not have been murdered. Because of Lenny's condition he may have given his wife too much medication. Teddy reveals all of this to Lenny, but says it does not matter because Lenny will not remember. However, Lenny keeps notes, lots of clever notes and pictures to remind himself. He realizes Teddy's real name is John Gammel like the John G. he has been looking for. Consequently, Lenny scribbles another note to himself saying that John G.'s license plate is Teddy's license plate. He also writes on Teddy's picture that he is a liar and not to be trusted. Thus, it is revealed why Teddy is killed.

Honestly, I have some philosophical problems with this film. Lenny and Teddy are going around the country murdering people. Teddy, of course, receives punishment, and rightly so because he has essentially been orchestrating all these murders. Furthermore, once Teddy is dead Lenny may not have the ability to seek out anymore John G.'s. However, I would prefer to see Lenny receive some kind of punishment or separation from society. However, what is also disturbing is that Lenny could have killed Teddy right when he told him the truth. Instead, Lenny sets up another little chase for himself. Either he is admitting that Teddy should not be killed, or that he would like to play detective again. Regardless of these problems I maintain that Memento gets four and a half stars because of the amazing accomplishment presented in a thrilling engrossing manner. Slowly, I believe I am coming to realize it is fine for a film to be entertaining. It does not make the film art, it does not make it great, but it also does not make the film filth. Memento lacks philosophically, but it is a grand achievement worth praising. The lack of message is not cause enough to cast it aside.


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