In 2000, director Christopher Nolan blew our minds with Memento, a story that uses the affliction of anterograde amnesia to play with time and traditional storytelling notions. His sure-handed direction, coupled with Guy Pearce’s compelling performance made the movie grab our attention, hold on to it for nearly two hours, and leave us exhausted. It’s critical and commercial success led to Nolan being offered other films and he has taken every advantage of the opportunity. His work on the Batman franchise has been admirable while The Prestige proved he can tell a more traditional story while the Oscar-nominated Inception once more played with our perceptions of reality.
Lionsgate has released Memento on Blu-ray disc and it looks pretty amazing in high definition and is a worth a second look. Nolan’s brother Jonathan wrote “Memento Mori” as a prose piece before Christopher adapted it as a screenplay. Both tell the story of Leonard, whose troubles began when his wife (Jorja Fox) was murdered. As he tries to determine who killed his spouse, his memory issues complicate his waking hour. Anything he experiences is forgotten within fifteen minutes, giving him a narrow window to ensure he puts the complicated puzzle of his life together. He takes Polaroid pictures, writes in his journal, and fills scraps with detail that he hopes will make sense later. The parallel storylines, with one told in reverse (beginning during the wonderful title sequence), challenges the audience to pay attention to every action, every line of dialogue, and try to see the world through Leonard’s tortured eyes.
He relies on note-taking, covering his body in elegant commentary that literally marks him for life. Without a short-term memory to rely on, Leonard’s steps are hampered with everyone he encounters a potential killer. As a result, one of his few friends Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) winds up a victim of misplaced vengeance with Leonard a hapless bullet aimed by the questionable waitress Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Who is at fault, who is the real killer? Leonard struggles to figure it out as the audience rushes to keep up with the twisting storyline.
The performances rise to the occasion and everyone, notably Pearce, are at the top of their game. Visually, though, this is all Nolan and holds your gaze and takes you on a roller coaster ride. Having this on Blu-ray will make deciphering the nuances a lot easier. The transfer is superior to Sony’s initial Blu-ray release years ago.
Several of the features from that earlier release reappear here while its option of watching the film in chronological order is absent. Nolan provides an audio commentary worthy of your time or you could hear him hold forth on “Remembering Memento” (7:44). “Anatomy of a Scene” (25:15) originally ran on the Sundance Channel and contains some useful background. The IFC Interview with Nolan (23:51) is here to be inclusive but doesn’t tell you much new. You can read, the original Jonathan Nolan short story, take a detailed look at Leonard’s Tattoo Sketches, or read pages from Leonard’s Journal.
As Nolan begins work on his final visit to Gotham City and is overseeing a revamped Metropolis, we can enjoy this offering to tide us over, hoping we can remember its best parts for some time to come.