October Extras 2: Memento (2000)

OCTOBER 2, 2008


I think the longest I ever drove for a movie was for Memento, in the summer of 2001. It was only playing at a small 2nd run theater in Danvers, MA, which was about a 40 minute drive from where I lived at the time. And it was worth the gas cost (and even would be today, nearly triple what it was then). One of my top 25 movies of all time; it’s a masterpiece that I never really grow tired of watching.

Of course, it’s been like 6 years since I last saw it, and my memory is gradually becoming more and more like Leonard Shelby’s. Also, I actually watched the “chronological” version that time, which is a bore but also makes you appreciate the film’s brilliant structure even more. When you watch the film in order, you’re seeing the “climax” (Teddy being killed) last, sure, but there’s no real excitement to it. In reality, the most exciting part of the story actually DID happen first, so when you watch... OK I’m getting confused. Look, don’t bother with the chronological order version.

I also forgot how funny it was. Joey Pants is always comic gold, but Guy Pearce also has a lot of great little throwaway lines (“Fuck, I need to get my own place,” he mutters, in response to having to dig through his pockets to know where his hotel is). And I never grow tired of the bit where the wonderfully (and always) sleazy Mark Boone Junior accidentally lets Leonard know that he’s been scamming him by renting him two rooms. And even better, those moments of levity never distract from the tension/suspense of the narrative.

Another thing that makes the movie so damned amazing is how relatively simple it is. It’s even more apparent when you watch the chronological version – not a real lot happens in it. Guy Pearce drives around to his hotel, Teddy bugs him, and Moss fucks with him. There’s a brief chase scene (another great laugh – “OK, I’m chasing this guy... nope, he’s chasing me!”), and two deaths, and that’s it in terms of action. Yet you are glued to the green for the entire 2 hr movie. There are only a handful of movies that I genuinely got sad when I realized that they were about to conclude, and this is one. I could watch it all day, just going further and further back (one thing the movie doesn’t quite make clear is how long it has been since the accident).

Less impressive is the DVD. This is the first film I ever double dipped, after being disappointed with the barebones original release. But the special edition is so goddamn frustrating and obtuse, I’ve actually never bothered with any of the extras except for the chronological version, and I had to get a goddamn flowsheet instruction page to figure out how to access it. I like that they tried something unique, and had I all the time in the world I would probably have fun with it, but I really wish they had you choose right from the start whether you wanted to fuck around with memory and logic puzzles, or just watch the goddamn movie. I finally today watched the commentary (again, I needed the internet to help me find it), and it’s a good track, as Nolan covers all bases (technical, creative, set anecdotes, actors...). It makes me even more annoyed that he never recorded a track for Batman Begins. The 2nd disc also has a lot of the usual type of stuff, but I’ve never watched any of it.

If you’ve never seen the film, you’re missing out on one of cinema’s all time great puzzles. Repeat viewings are rewarded, and nitpickers will find almost nothing in terms of continuity/logic holes. The director has gone on the make the 2nd highest grossing film of all time, so a re-release on DVD that touts that bit of info wouldn’t surprise me, but you really should just go buy whatever version you can find (a Blu-Ray is also available) ASAP. Few movies can be recommended more.

What say you?


  1. I think I was with it up until the lame "revelation" at the end. I'd say it hurts this movie more than, say, the solution to the mystery of the clues in Twin Peaks's lameness did to it, because in this case it was sort of the point of the movie.

    Anyway, I'm still uncertain of where I stand with Christopher Nolan. I found The Prestige to be sort of bland, while Memento was good but left me mostly dissatisfied. The only films of his I really like are Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and I even found those to be heavily flawed (mainly Dark Knight).

  2. Best film of that year.The first,second and third times I watched it I came up with totally different readings.But I think I finally got it with the third.A great film to spend hours discussing down the pub.ALthough still,is Sammy Jenkiss real or in his head?

  3. I agree with you, this mocie is easily top 25!! This movie simply blew me away on all fronts. I don't think I have seen a movie since that truly struck me like this one.
    Geat review chief.

  4. I agree with you, this mocie is easily top 25!! This movie simply blew me away on all fronts. I don't think I have seen a movie since that truly struck me like this one.
    Geat review chief.

  5. why am i the only person who doesn't like this movie?

  6. I've never watched the chrono version. But have always assumed that the Nolan's unknowingly wrote a really boring thriller about a guy with short term memory problems. When nobody would give them money to make it they were like "Oh, no you see it's....umm...backwards? Yeah, were' gonna show the movie backwards. It'll be awesome."

    They got the greenlight and breathed a sigh of relief.

    One of my fave movies though. It's up there with Fear and Loathing for me.

  7. Cant agree less!!! Ya, it had great directing. Ya, the actors pulled their scenes quite nicely.Ya, it was a trippy concept. But what was so hard to understand that you needed to watch it a second time?? If you couldnt get it all the first time then you shouldnt be watching these kind of movies in the first place. Movie was awesome first go around but the second time was a major bore. I was more intersted in my game of solitare and shut it off half way through. I was so dissapointed too cause i rented it remembering how great it was. Now I wish I never watched it the second time, all it did was make me realise how simple it truly was.


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