Please note this is a review of the rental R2 DVD. You can find our retail R2 review here.
There are many films that have won praise for their imaginative structure, such as Pulp Fiction, just as there are many crime films that have managed to have astounding twists in, such as The Usual Suspects. However, the two would appear to be mutually exclusive; it's very hard to have a non-linear plot that can include a substantial twist at the end, on the grounds that the film's structure would appear to make such a revelation redundant. However, Memento manages to indeed pull this off, combining a truly brilliant and innovative time structure with a plot that is ultimately as convoluted and twisted as anything seen in recent film thrillers.
The set-up is complex; Leonard Shelby (Pearce), is a man unable to remember any event for longer than 15 minutes after the rape and murder of his wife, who he is seeking vengeance for, aided and abetted by femme fatale Natalie (Moss) and unscrupulous police officer Teddy (Pantoliano). However, as mentioned before, the film starts with Shelby killing the man he suspects murdered his wife, and tracks backwards through time to a truly stunning twist.
Despite being currently rated at number 12 in the 250 greatest films of all time on the IMDB, it's hard to feel that Memento hasn't been underrated in some way, with little acknowledgement of what a truly stunning film this is. Unlike even Se7en or The Usual Suspects, which were merely excellently done linear genre pieces, this manages to make an inaccessible-sounding plot entirely comprehensible, although there is one big twist that is so subtle that it really takes at least 2 viewings to fully comprehend. Nolan, in only his second film, doesn't direct as flashily as, say, Guy Ritchie, but there are many stylish moments here, as well as some highly amusing moments of black humour, as you would expect from a film where it is genuinely impossible to predict what is coming next.
The cast is excellent. Whether it was coincidence that Moss and Pantoliano, both veterans of The Matrix, were cast or not is unknown, but both are extremely good; Moss manages to combine the traditional qualities of the film noir 'heroine' with an altogether more contemporary outlook on life, while Pantoliano is good in a role that requires the viewer to be unsure whether he is good, bad or altogether more complicated. Pearce is also excellent, but it's worth noting that he has, effectively, an impossible task, as Shelby is a man without any kind of personality or identity, whose sole purpose on earth appears to be to avenge his wife's death, rather than to do anything else.
Personally, I'd say this is one of the greatest thrillers of the past decade. Released without the hype of Pulp Fiction or The Usual Suspects (deciding to open in Britain several months before America was an unusual move in this respect), it has yet to move into the mainstream consciousness, but this marks Nolan as a real talent to watch, with his remake of Insomnia eagerly awaited by all those with a taste for intelligent, adult films, rather than the usual banal trash pedalled by mainstream cinema. Unreservedly recommended.
Pathe have provided a stunning anamorphic transfer for the disc. Colours are wonderfully bright and rich throughout, and there is no sign of any grain or print damage. The film uses black and white extensively, and the colours look equally glorious there, a sure sign of a good transfer. It's a flawless effort from Pathe, and a glorious way to view the film.
A 5.1 mix is provided. The film isn't really an action film, although there are some moments of action in it, and the mix is fairly restrained, although there are some nice uses of surround in some of the scenes, both for sound effects and dialogue. It's not a test disc, but it's about as good an effort as you'd wish for with the film.
On this rental disc, none really; there are some trailers for films 'coming soon', which have to be watched in order, including some for TV adverts, which are bizarrely presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The film is an excellent thriller, and unreservedly recommended. Pathe's decision to use the rental window is a rather irritating one; however, the disc can now be picked up as an ex-rental comparatively cheaply. The eventual retail version may or may not include some decent extras; however, it's well worth picking this disc up if you can find it at a reasonable price.