Remember Sammy Jankis.
Yet another neo-noir flick in the top 25. Memento transcends noir and mixes up the genre in a different way than how Blade Runner did. Rather than a detective, we have a victim who witnessed his wifes rape and murder. The catch is that the film is in reverse and that our main character, "Lenny!" has no short term memory. This calls for one of films most intriguing characters and situations. The movie runs in a very jumbled order with scenes in color going backwards and scenes in black and white happening in the past sometime before the scenes in color have happened. The narrative style is very Tarantino in it's jumbled nature, but it takes on a new level of storytelling that builds the suspense and will leave the viewer questioning what just happened.
The first and most importan reason that this movie is so excellent is for the performance of underdog and almost unknown actor Guy Pierce. His broken character of Leonard will have you sympathetic for his situation at the beginning and questioning everything at the end, just as Leonard must question everything. The thing that makes the character seem realistic isn't the way the film is set-up or told, but the little quirks that Pierce brings to the character. When he's talking, he speaks fast with a pace that is sometimes hard to keep up with. His sentences seem to be fragments, just like the fragments of his mind. Without Pierce's stirring performance, it would be hard to believe that someone would have no short term memory. Relying on Polaroids would seem almost ridiculous, but not for his quirky and idiosyncratic character. Little twitches, smirks and gestures make the character real. The story is a bit convoluted, but just convoluted enough that we get sucked into it and don't see the problems with the storytelling. This is where it's noir side really kicks in. The story is dark and twisted and takes you on a ride. Again, without a likeable, realistic character, we would fall short to all the insane nature of the story and it's reeling narrative.
Another perk to Memento is its supporting cast. Without the help of Joe "Pants" Pantoliano and his excellent role as "Teddy", we wouldn't have the comedic relief and grounded view of what our main character is really all about. His quick comedy and his realistic view of Lenny keeps the character from falling apart. Natalie, played by Carrie Ann Moss (in her finest role to date) is the perfect Femme Fatale. As the movie goes on, we aren't sure if she is friend or foe and we aren't sure of what she is exactly after.
This movie is hard to describe without giving things away, so I apologize if anything in this review seems like a spoiler, but I don't give specifics and there is so much depth to this story that explaining it not only ruins it, but would be really hard. This is one of those films where you jsut need to watch it for yourself, pick your brain, watch it again and see the greatness of the characters and the twisted tale of murder and the unknown.