Nate Watches – Momento

Well I got to watch a lot of movies over the weekend – some on the big screen, some on the small.  So many that I’m declaring this…

MOVIE WEEK!

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So first up I finally got around to watching Momento, one of Nolan’s first movies.

Spoilers below the rank.

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Probably the biggest shock of this movie is how accurate it is to actual amnesia issues.  If you’ve watched 51 First Dates or one of the other billion memory examining fictions, you’ll have to put all of that our of your mind.  The main character of the movie, “Lenny” doesn’t have any real hard rules on his amnesia, it seems to happen when he falls asleep or his brain enters “sleep mode“.  Once you master this rule, the movie’s much easier to follow.  After that you have to remember that Lenny can’t form new memories, but he can form new habits (because each deal with a different part of the brain).

I’d normally be the first one to describe this movie as “gimmicky” – a film that relies more on an effect of narrative or film in order to tell an otherwise weak story but… it’s not.  It would be weaker without the backwards plot, but it would still be a strong story nonetheless.  I’d also call it the best study anyone can have on making a prequel: just because the audience knows the end, doesn’t mean you can’t keep them engaged.  The backwards narration also makes this a very immersive movie.  With the start of each scene, we are like Lenny – we don’t know what’s happening or what’s going on.  Nolan used a similar effect in Inception where every scene starts out in medias res without ever giving us an establishing shot, a sign of a dream as Cobb points out.

Another feature of this movie that’s awesome is a feature I’ve praised a few other films about recently.  There is a solid, obvious core to the movie: things happen and we can be sure of what those things are, but there are still many open possibilities left to the audiences’ imagination.  For instance, who was Teddy, really?  We’re not told much, and even what we’re told could be lies or truth.  I prefer the narrative that Teddy was the real “John G” Lenny was searching for.  Perhaps one time Lenny got close but failed.  During this, Teddy learned of Lenny’s condition and realized how he could use the victim for his own ends.  Then Teddy eventually overplays his hand and Lenny prepares Teddy’s death – Karma brought John G’s sins back on him (and they might bring Lenny’s back to himself as well).

May other story possibilities are left open, but the movie is also… heartwarming in a strange way.  With the final clue that Lenny leaves himself, his quest finally ends – his purpose in life is finished.  Even if he keeps searching for John G, the license plate # will always lead him back to a dead Teddy.  So what now for him?

The only scene I had any issue with was the one where Natalie insults Lenny to the point where she’s beaten only to run off and manipulate him into doing a favor for her.  It seems she got real lucky on the timer of his memory resetting – especially not having known him that long.  What would have happened if she came back and he hadn’t reset yet?  Would she have died?  Other than this scene, everything else flowed well and it was an enjoyable film.  It’s not too bleak and depressing, but it’s not all happy sunshines either, it’s very much a gray movie.  The language and violence don’t make it a film for young family members, but if you have kids in their teens or nearing adulthood, I’d actually recommend this movie to get them talking and thinking.  It will stick in your memory.

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