♦Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk comes out in cinemas next Friday 21 July and so we at Tripwire have decided to rewatch and assess the eight films he has released prior to this just like we did with Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Bros. Next up is Memento, Nolan’s second film, which was released back in 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Memento was made only two years after Nolan’s debut, Following, but the leap in quality and professional is immense. Like its precursor, Memento is also a noir story but using a much grander palette. Pearce plays insurance agent Leonard who has lost his memory and so to remind himself of certain salient information about himself, he gets this information tattooed onto his body. As well as being an amnesiac, throw into the mix the fact his wife has been murdered and he is trying to solve her murder while being hindered by his amnesia.
Memento is a classic slice of film noir with Loenard almost the ultimate unreliable narrator, offering ‘facts’ about other people in this dark story and then contradicting himself minutes later. Pearce is exceptional and the viewer is drawn into this world of discombobulated truths and half-facts. Visually it is more accomplished and confident than Following. Memento uses a non-linear structure to tell its story, which is effective as it mirrors the disconnected state that Leonard has found himself in.
The supporting cast which comes mostly from Joe Pantoliano as his associate Teddy and girlfriend Natalie played by Carrie-Ann Moss is excellent but it is very much Pearce’s show.
Very much in the mold of forties noir like Double Indemnity or Crossfire, Memento showcases a filmmaker who has grown significantly since his debut and it explores many of the themes that still obsess him to this day. It showed that Nolan was a director capable of ambition and invention, tipping his hat to what had come before while enriching it with a very contemporary feel. It is interesting to watch this and contrast it with the Tarantino films of the decade before as Nolan deals with nuance and subtlety, a counterpoint to the likes of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.
Following was an intriguing student film but Memento is a proper slice of cinematic film noir. It staked his claim as one of the most exciting and vibrant directors of the beginning of the 21st century.