***.8 GM
Starring: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss, Stephen Tobolowsky, Mark Boone Junior, Callum Keith Rennie


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I need to see this movie again.

My memory ain't the best in the world, and even knowing what the film was about didn't really prepare me to have it tested as much as it was while watching this film. Pearce is Leonard Shelby, a guy who's suffering from a disorder that causes him to be unable to create new memories, and his attention span is about fifteen minutes maximum before he completely forgets where he is, what he's doing and what's happened. He has to keep track of things by scribbling down notes, taking polaroids and coming up with a system he can teach himself to remember instinctually so he can know which pocket to dip into when he needs information. He does recall who he is and what happened to him up until the moment he tried to stop his wife's rape and murder and suffered the head injury that caused the problem... and he's dedicated his life to tracking down the killer, the vital information he gathers on this mystery he tattoos on himself as a sign of its importance. As you may imagine, everyone he runs into takes advantage of his handicap.

This is a really cool idea, and it's executed well... and the whole film is told chronologically backwards. It's constant pressure to remember exactly what went down previously, and exactly what important things Leonard has forgotten that you and the other characters in the film should remember. It slowly becomes assured that people aren't who they seem, and nobody's playing it straight... and even when people DO get honest, Leonard doesn't remember it anyway.

It's been described as a 'mindfuck,' and it's hard to disagree with that assessment. Guy Pearce is great - the more I see of this guy, the more I like him. He really lets us feel the desperation this guy must be going through - emotions can carry over, but he can't remember why he's feeling them, he's always trying to see all the angles, the way he used to as an insurance investigator, but he CAN'T anymore, and his entire life is trying to figure out who to trust every few minutes. It's compelling to watch his frustration conflict with how accustomed he's grown to his affliction... and how he eventually realizes the freedom it gives him. Joe Pantoliano is cool as he usually is as the enigmatic Teddy that keeps popping into his life. Carrie-Anne Moss, who I tend to think less of due to the whole "Matrix" thing (annoyance by affiliation with Keanu), is also good here, thankfully not kicking anyone in slow-motion. The film might be slightly overlong, but not enough to affect my overall enjoyment of it.

The whole 'mess with the flow of time' trick in film has been used a lot in the last decade or so, which I'd pretty much tired of by the time Go rolled around, but this inversion of it makes it interesting again, and it forces you to focus and pay attention to keep up with the story - which is hard to do when your attention span has been whittled down by remote-control television to occasionally feel as useless as Leonard's. I was doubting my memory the rest of the day, throughout all the other stuff I was doing.

This was a big hit at Sundance 2001, but nobody picked it up for major distribution because they figured "ya know, most of America thought "Mission Impossible" was so complex that they gleefully accepted the stupid bike stunt movie that was M:I2, so there's no way they're going to see this thing." If you wanna buck the 'you live in this country, it means you're stupid' trend, go check this out and see for yourself. I know I'm gonna go see it again.

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