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Reviewed July 29th, 2002 by Patrick Mohan


Memento definitely deserved more attention in the theaters than it received, but like many other great movies, more box-office friendly pictures overshadowed it. This film holds your mind at gunpoint and challenges it to figure out the truth. Similar to Dogma by Kevin Smith, Columbia Tristar first released Memento in a “standard” version, but promised the eventual release of a limited edition full of extras. (Is it a coincidence that both DVD’s were released in the same way by the same comedy? I’ll leave that up to you.)

Although the plot of the movie is not summary friendly due to the possibility of spoilers, a brief outline is possible. The story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce from L.A. Confidential), an ex-insurance investigator who is trying to solve the mystery surround the rape and murder of his wife, is told in an unconventional style that reverses the films chronological order. His short-term memory has been damaged and some facts constantly escape him. With the use of Polaroids and notes, and tattooing words and reminders on his own body, Shelby tries to keep a grasp on what he cannot remember. In his search for the truth, Shelby comes in contact with two key people – Teddy (Joe Pantoliano of The Fugitive and some movie called The Matrix) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss of Chocolat and that Matrix movie). With his inability to remember everything, different pictures are painted of each character throughout the movie and both take on Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde characteristics, which cause you to question their true motives for associating with Leonard.

The movie’s story causes you to empathize with Leonard because the unconventional time structure reveals information to the viewer in an unfamiliar way. Instead of waiting for the effect, you are waiting for the cause and any additional background information that will bring you closer to the truth.

The audio presentation on this edition provides three separate tracks – Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and Dolby 2.0. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is wonderful because it does justice to what made this film so incredible, the thought-provoking dialogue. The film’s score is also well represented on this audio track because it does not overpower the dialogue, but fits perfectly in the telling of Leonard Shelby’s tale.

With a video presentation that is improved from the film’s standard DVD release, this edition presents Memento in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Although the film does not rely on extreme special effects, the video on this DVD offers a brighter and more vivid picture than its predecessor. The image is clearer and its detail has been greatly improved from the earlier edition.

The extras on this edition are incredible, but many people have problems figuring them out. Whoever created the menus probably had the best intentions when they created them to resemble psychological exams dealing with memory and cognitive capacity, but the confusion that some people encounter when trying access certain features are just downright annoying.

After spending hours trying to find all of the special features, I was able to locate several of them and most of them helped alleviate the frustration caused by the search.

The movie’s commentary track is good for people who enjoy the technical aspects of filmmaking. If there’s a person to get insight from about this flick, it is definitely the man behind the movie, Christopher Nolan. Don’t skip over this part of the DVD, especially if you are still confused about all what you just saw on your television screen. Don’t expect an extreme amount of humor relating to off-screen gags or information about topics not related to the movie. He does offer a great variety of information dealing with the film’s plot and character development, and also the making of the film.

It’s a shame that disc 2 had to pick up where disc 1 left off, in the sense of the psychological menus. Besides that, this disc contains a few very important special features and I would recommend only watching this disc after watching the film, not before.

After figuring out the particular tests for several features, the first feature I was able to find was Anatomy of a Scene. It’s a 25-minute documentary that aired on the Sundance channel and is full of interviews from the flick’s key players. It covers several aspects of the film, including some scene analysis, casting, and technical topics such as editing, the film’s score and sound.

The disc also contains the director’s shooting script, which allows you to go back and forth from the film to the script. It also includes Memento Mori, the short story by Christoper Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, which was the film’s inspiration.

The best special feature and the most anticipated is the one that places the film in chronological order. After hearing all of the rumors and searching the disc with the intensity of a Star Wars fan searching the net for never-released deleted scenes from Phantom Menace, I finally found the highly sought after feature. It answers everyone’s question, “What would it be like if you watched the film backwards?” It was the perfect ending to a spectacular limited edition DVD.

Memento is a phenomenal film that relies on the viewer using his or her mind, instead of relying on constantly overused visual effects. Christopher Nolan is able to tell a story that is far from traditional and delivers a cinematic gem. After talking with several people who own this DVD, I do agree that while the packaging was meant to follow the movie’s psychological aspects, I did find it a constant hindrance when I wanted to take the movie out to view it. Besides the frustration of the menus throughout both discs, I highly recommend this DVD for people who appreciate great movies and DVDs that are packed with things you actually want to spend your time watching.


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