Memento is intrinsically suspenseful. The idea behind Memento's story
and the structure of the plot make you really want to find out what
happens in the end. Except, in the case of Memento, that's all
backwards. You know what happens in the end, you just don't know what
happens in the beginning.
Memento stars Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) as a man without any short
term memory. This is constantly disorienting for the character and the
audience. Leonard remembers everything in his life up to the point when
his wife was raped and murdered. After that he must rely upon
hand-written notes and Polaroid snap-shots to reconstruct his memory. If
something really important happens, Leonard tattoos it on his body.
The story is told in reverse chronological order. The beauty of
reversing the flow of action is that we don't know any more than
Leonard. Imagine "coming to" in a strange room, reaching in your pocket
and finding a note in your own handwriting instructing you to kill a
man. And, that's just what Leonard does. In the opening scene, Leonard
shoots a complete stranger through the back of the head. Except it's
obvious that Leonard knew this man in the past because he has a picture
of him with the words "Don't trust his lies" written on the back.
Instead of finding clues and piecing them together to solve a mystery,
Leonard starts with all the clues but doesn't know how to interpret
them. This is the brilliance behind the film. Memento is a unique,
tantalizing mystery. Like many of Philip K. Dick's novels, Memento deals
with intriguing ideas about the importance of memories. For example, if
Leonard fell in love (if such a thing could happen in a single moment),
he would forget about it thirty seconds later. Does that negate the
emotion? These are the kinds of things writer/director Christopher Nolan
no doubt hopes you talk about after watching Memento.
Having said all that, the ending (or beginning) of the movie is a
let-down. Without spoiling anything, I simply found Memento's conclusion
far-fetched. The film also reaches into the pop psychology bag once too
often. Memento is the equal of many good thrillers, but doesn't have
that one-two punch to knock-out the audience.