Movie Recommendation

Well, I hesitate to recommend this movie, because the first three people I told about this as if it was some kind of clever discovery of mine said "Oh, yeah, loved it, saw it years ago."  So maybe everyone else saw this movie a decade ago and I just missed it.  But I really enjoyed an older Christopher Nolan (Inception) directed movie called Memento.    It stars Guy Pierce (LA Confidential, one of my favorite movies) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Matrix).

The movie is about a man trying to get revenge on his wife's murderer.  The only problem is that somehow, from roughly the point in time his wife died, he lost all of his short term memory.  So he can never remember things more than a few minutes.  He has to trust notes he has written (including tattoos on his body) for clues that he pursues.

The clever part of the movie is that it is shot backwards.  Well, I don't mean everyone walks backwards.  It is shot in a series of 3-10 minute clips with normal forward action, but then the clips are reassembled in the film in reverse order.  The end of each scene is therefore usually the beginning of the previous one  (though there is a second thread in black and white that moves through the movie in a slightly different way).

This seems crazy and confusing, until you realize that at any point in the movie, you are in exactly the same place as the protagonist - you know nothing about the past, or even, in the start of the clip, how you got there.  Its not a casual movie that you can watch while you are doing something else, it requires some concentration, but it worked well for me.   The most incredible thing is that despite the fact you know how it all comes out, the movie is incredibly tense and exciting -- you don't know why it came out that way, and the movie is full of twists and turns.

Postscript: There was a movie last year of completely different style -  straight forward plot line, uneven acting, more of an action movie - that had a sortof kindof similar plot.  The movie was called Vengence, and it was about a man who was losing his memory and slowly degenerating trying to find his daughter's killer.  It is a totally different movie, but cribs some of the Memento plot devices, such as labelled Polaroid pictures as a memory device.  It is pretty good, particularly for fans of Asian-style action movies, and is directed by Johnnie To.


  1. Daran:

    Oh, yeah, loved it, saw it years ago.


    Great movie. You'll find yourself trying to puzzle along with every time jump.

  2. Jens Fiederer:

    Oh, yeah, loved it, saw it ages ago.

    You might get a lot of these, but at least it affirms your taste in movies.

  3. Russ R:


    Memento has long been my single favourite film ever made, for exactly the reasons you've mentioned above. I've yet to come across a more clever concept presented in a motion picture, and you have to watch it very closely (even on the second, third and fourth viewings) to truly appreciate what a masterpiece it is.

    If you liked Memento, I'd suggest watching Christopher Nolan's earliest work, a film he shot while still in film school called "Following". It's ultra-low-budget, and shot in black & white, but it experiments with similar non-linear time-sequencing that, as in Memento, forces you to piece together the puzzle for yourself.

  4. Ignoramus:

    I think this is more accurate: The main character has his old long-term memories -- so he knows who he is -- and he has his current short-term memory -- so if you meet him and tell him your name he can remember in the moment -- but he can't make new long-term memories -- he'll forget he ever met you.

    This isn't preposterous. If you damage a particular part of the brain this is exactly waht happens. There's a notorious example of a fencing accident where the sword went through a guy's eye and hit the right spot.

  5. Craig:

    Nolan's "The Prestige" is also pretty incredible. I didn't fully understand it until the second time I watched it, particularly the depth of Robert Angier's (Hugh Jackman) jealousy and depravity. Great acting from the entire cast. Nice steam-punk vibe with the Tesla (David Bowie) subplot.

  6. aczarnowski:

    Memento blew me away when I saw it - years ago ;) - and I bought it on DVD as soon as it came out. Then never watched it again. When it arrived I realized it was one of those films, like Se7en, that were impressive in new ways and we're better off for being made, but that I don't necessarily want to motivate myself enough to relive again.

    With the comments above, maybe I'll give Memento another go this weekend.

  7. Jonathan:

    A similarly confusing but good movie is Primer.

  8. chuck martel:

    "Memento" is a complicated film. Not only is the narrative in reverse, we don't really know if the Guy Pearce character was ever even really married or if the Joe Pantolino character was actually a bad guy. Another entertaining movie that plays with time, in a somewhat different manner, is German Tim Tykwer's "Run, Lola Run". It's not as dark as "Memento".

  9. JoeBloe:

    Primer, yes. A time travel movie made for an engineer's mind.

  10. Jim:

    I watched Vengeance at your recommendation. It was pretty good.

  11. ArtD0dger:

    When I heard about the backwards-plot device, I thought it sounded ridiculous. It just sounds like one of those premises you can never quite swallow, and consequently makes key plot elements unbelievable and silly. (I liked Inception pretty well, but it does fall into this category somewhat...)

    I was just amazed how well it worked in Memento, though. Even though you know what's going to happen from the beginning, you don't know what's going on until the end. Really good movie.

    Just added Vengeance and some other flicks from this thread to my queue...we'll see how the Coyote den does for movie recs.

  12. Clem:

    For those who didn't watch the movie, the back story is police found a badly injured man in his house with the dead bodies of his wife and a stranger. It is obvious to them stranger broke in or burgled house and killed wife then was killed by husband after severely striking husband on head. Case closed. When husband recovers, he claims he was slugged from behind after the stranger was dead, so there is a second murderer. Police say "poor guy, his memory is addled--as a matter of fact he can't remember anything since the attack. Case still closed." So the husband has to find second man himself.

  13. Plungerman:

    Great film. Enjoyed Memento years ago on my "get everything in VHS while it's so cheap" phase. My problem then was that I only had time each night to watch 30 or 40 minutes of a film. As you mentioned this is not the way to watch Memento. After a few days I felt I was becoming the hero.


  14. dullgeek:

    Loved Memento. Re-watched it again last year. Was totally worth the re-watch.

    I enjoyed Primer. But it's one of those movies that you really have to watch multiple times to fit all the pieces together. And I've never mustered up the mental stamina to put it back on. My favorite part of that movie was when they were doing the engineering of the time machine. I really could relate to the trial, error, think, retry cycle.