Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) shine in this absolute stunner of a movie. Memento combines a bold, mind-bending script with compelling action and virtuoso performances. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, hunting down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The problem is that "the incident" that robbed Leonard of his wife also stole his ability to make new memories. Unable to retain a location, a face, or a new clue on his own, Leonard continues his search with the help of notes, Polaroids, and even homemade tattoos for vital information. Because of his condition, Leonard essentially lives his life in short, present-tense segments, with no clear idea of what's just happened to him. That's where Memento gets really interesting; the story begins at the end, and the movie jumps backward in 10-minute segments. The suspense of the movie lies not in discovering what happens, but in finding out why it happened. Amazingly, the movie achieves edge-of-your-seat excitement even as it moves backward in time, and it keeps the mind hopping as cause and effect are pieced together. Pearce captures Leonard perfectly, conveying both the tragic romance of his quest and his wry humor in dealing with his condition. He is bolstered by several excellent supporting players, and the movie is all but stolen from him by Pantoliano, who delivers an amazing performance as Teddy, the guy who may or may not be on his side. Memento has an intriguing structure and even meditations on the nature of perception and meaning of life if you go looking for them, but it also functions just as well as a completely absorbing thriller. It's rare to find a movie this exciting with so much intelligence behind it. --Ali Davis

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Production: Newmarket Films
  Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 56 wins & 55 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
R (Restricted)

Leonard Shelby:
[Continuing Phone Conversation] I met Sammy through work. Insurance. I was an investigator. I'd investigate the claims to see which ones were phony. I had to see through people's bullshit. It was a useful experience, cause now it's my life. When I meet someone, I don't know if I've met them before. I have to just look in their eyes and try and figure them out. My job taught me the best way to find out what someone knew was just let them talk and watch the eyes...and the body language. If someone scratches their nose while they're talking, experts will tell you it means they're lying. It really means they're nervous. People get nervous for all sorts of reasons. It's all about context...Yeah, I was good. Sammy was my first real challenge. I'd just become an investigator when I came across Sammy. Mr. Samuel R. Jankis. Strangest case ever. You know the guy's a 58 year old semi-retired accountant. He and his wife had been in this car accident. Nothing too serious. But he's acting funny. He can't get a handle on what's going on. The Doctors find some possible damage to the hippocampus. Nothing conclusive, but Sammy can't remember anything for more than a couple of minutes. Can't work, Can't do sh*t. The medical bills pile up. His wife calls the insurance company, and I get sent in. Now this is my first Big claims investigation, so I really check into it. Sammy can think just fine, but he can't make any new memories. He can only remember things for a couple minutes. He'd watch TV, but anything longer than a couple of minutes was too confusing...He couldn't remember how it began. He liked commercials, they were short. The crazy part was that this guy who couldn't even follow the plot of Green Acres anymore could do the most complicated things as long as he learned them before the accident and as long as he kept his mind on what he was doing. Now the doctors assure me that there's a real condition called Anterograde Memory Loss, or short-term memory loss. It's rare, but legit. But everytime I see him I catch this look...this slight look of recognition. But he says he can't remember me at all. Now, I can read people and I'm thinking: Bad Actor. So now I'm suspicious and I order more tests. Sammy couldn't pick up any new skills at all. But I find something in my research: Conditioning. Sammy should still be able to learn through repetition. It's how you learn stuff like riding a bike. You just get better through practice. It's a completely different part of the brain from short-term memory. So I had the doctors test Sammy's response to conditioning. Some of the objects were electrified. They'd give him a small shock. They kept repeating the test always with the same objects electrified. THe point was to see if Sammy could avoid the electrified objects not by memory but by instinct. They kept testing Sammy for months, always with the same objects carrying the electrical charge. Even with total short-term memory loss, Sammy should have learned to instinctively stop picking up the wrong objects. All the previous cases responded to conditioning. Sammy didn't respond at all. It was enough to suggest that his condition was Psychological, not Physical. We turned down his claim on the grounds that he wasn't covered for mental illness. His wife got stuck with the bills, and I got a big promotion. Conditioning didn't work for Sammy, so he became helpless. But it works for me. I live the way Sammy couldn't. Habit and routine make my life possible. Conditioning. Acting on instinct. Sammy's wife was cripple by the cost of supporting him and fighting the company's decision. but it wasn't the money that got to her. I never said that Sammy was faking...Just that his problem was mental, not physical. She couldn't understand. I mean, she looks into his eyes and see the same person. If it's not a physical problem, he should just snap out of it. So good old Leonard Shelby from the insurance company gives her the seed of doubt just like he gave it to the doctors. But I never said that he was faking. I never said that. But what Mrs. Jankis didn't understand was that you can't bully someone into remembering. The more pressure you're under, the harder it gets...Uh, well, then call me back? [Hangs up the phone]

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