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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Memento

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Memento”
Rated R
2000

Oh, the irony that a movie about a man who sees no value in revisiting fiction would be eminently re-watchable. But “Memento” — the first of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic gazes into an abyss of madness, obsession, identity and wrath — remained a compelling puzzle long after its revelations rolled out.

That’s because Nolan, a modern master of misdirection, went miles beyond his narrative hook of churning out classic noir in reverse chronology.

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) seeks “John G.,” the brute that killed his wife and left him unable to form new memories. He scribbles notes to tattoo the case’s “facts” on his body and reaffirm allegiances to cop Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and barmaid Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss).

More than an enigmatic, jittery and occasionally funny treatise on the fruitlessness of vengeance, 2000’s “Memento” never abandons its emotional quandary: How can a man unable to feel time expect to heal?

Nolan reveals Leonard’s guilt, pathology, delusion and perception to uncover a fascinatingly unreliable narrator losing himself (as we all do) in habit, repetition and delusional conflations of memory and fact.

Some scenes wear the influences of dog-eared detective novels on their sleeves, but consider how “Memento’s” structure cleared a path for so much popular Zeroes entertainment —influencing the flashbacks, flash-forwards and flash-sideways of “Lost” and other serialized dramas.

Time teeters away from the viewer’s grasp, too; time and again, “Memento” feels like it’s over in 13 minutes, not 113. Like Leonard’s introductory shtick, this great story gets better every time you watch it.

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4 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Memento”

  1. […] While I think it’s impossible to grasp beyond basic to moderate narrative understanding after the strap-in, hang-on feel of the first-time viewing (especially with Watanabe’s strained English-language dialogue), suggestions are sprinkled throughout that the final moments are all in Dom’s head (from the moment he willfully stays in Fischer’s subconscious to the final shot). In some regards, that makes it a mega, meta “Memento.” […]

  2. […] While I think it’s impossible to grasp beyond basic to moderate narrative understanding after the strap-in, hang-on feel of the first-time viewing (especially with Watanabe’s strained English-language dialogue), suggestions are sprinkled throughout that the final moments are all in Dom’s head (from the moment he willfully stays in Fischer’s subconscious to the final shot). In some regards, that makes it a mega, meta “Memento.” […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers. Nick Rogers said: Sammy had no drive. No reason to make it work. http://bit.ly/aZsYQr #bestfilmsofthedecade […]

  4. Bobby McFerrin says:

    Unfortunately, I watched this with several beers. I was lost in no time. This is definitely a movie where Bobby needs to keep from drowning his worries to be happy.