Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Insomnia) stormed onto
the movie scene with his second feature film, Memento. With
a convoluted story and an equally convoluted style, Nolan's film has become
a modern cult classic, a film that can be watched over and over and continually
impresses. When Sony announced that they would be releasing this
film on Blu-Ray, I became excited and was really interested to see how
good this film could look. Well, after screening it, I'm not as excited.
Once again digital noise and compression artifacts mar an otherwise decent
Leonard suffers from a very rare brain disorder that is the result of
an accident; his mind is unable to convert short term memory into
long term memory. The upshot is that he forgets everything after
about 15 minutes. Four times an hour he suddenly has no memory of
what happened since his accident.
This condition started some years ago when his house was robbed and
his wife killed. Walking in on the murder, he's hit in the head and
knocked to the ground. The last thing he can remember is laying helplessly
on the floor and watching his wife's life slip away. Leonard has
a strong thirst for revenge, and vows to find his wife's killer.
But will killing the person who killed his wife and caused his condition
mean anything when he won't remember it?
Leonard (Guy Pearce) has learned to overcome his problems as best as
he can. He takes Poloroid pictures of people and places and labels
them with noted. The really important things that he can't afford
to forget or loose he are tattooed onto his body. Every morning he
reads his tattoos and notes and working for short gaps at a time (before
he forgets everything again) he works towards finding the man who ruined
The plot is engrossing and raises some interesting questions about the
nature of people, but the thing that makes this movie brilliant is the
way it was constructed. Starting at the end of the movie, the story
is told backwards in small chunks of time. This odd editing style
recreates for the viewers what Leonard goes through. He has no idea
who is talking to him or how he came to be where he is, and neither do
the people watching the film. Grounded with an interesting story
though, this film doesn't rely on gimmicky editing tricks for it's appeal.
This was an excellent film that really worked well on several levels.
Not only does it keep viewers on their toes trying to figure out what has
happened just before, but the movie is open to interpretation and will
undoubtedly start many discussions. One of the more interesting
aspects of the film is that the meaning of scenes and statements also changes,
sometimes drastically, as story progresses. Like the Akira Kurosawa
classic Rashomon, as the movie unfolds it turns out that things aren't
as they seem and when seen in the light of day, some people who seem to
have good motivations are actually evil.
The film paints a depressing picture of human nature. Everyone
that Lenny meets uses him once they find out about his condition.
From the clerk at the hotel he's staying at who charges him his daily rent
a couple of times a day, to the people who are helping him track down the
killer, everyone uses him for his own ends, ultimately Leonard ends up
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player
on the market at the time of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently
an error crept into the design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one
of the chips was turned on which creates a softer picture. As yet there
is no fix for this, or even an official announcement from Samsung.
The good news on the video front is that the 2.35 widescreen image looks
pretty good, better than the limited edition standard definition release
of this film. I did some direct comparisons between the two editions,
and while the difference wasn't stunning, it was apparent. The Blu-ray
disc is apparently made from the same master as the LE. The level
of detail is a bit stronger on this HD disc, with fine background items
being more defined and having sharper edges.
There are some scenes that are really strong too, with a lot of dimensionality
and a real HD feel to them. Unfortunately the entire film isn't like
that. Other scenes are rather flat and don't look too different from
the SD release of the film. The colors are accurate, fleshtones especially
look good through most of the movie. There are a few area where the
colors look more lifeless and drab, but I think that was the filmmaker's
The big problem for this disc, as it has been for other Blu–Ray releases,
is digital noise. The film was made with a fair amount of grain,
especially in the black and white scenes, but the digital noise that this
disc has makes the image look much more grainy than it should. Large
areas of a single color are effected the most, but even relatively small
patches of black have more noise than they should. There are some
other digital defects too, some minor blocking in a couple of scenes, that
I was disappointed to see. I can't be sure if it is the disc and
the MPEG 2 encoding or something with the Samsung player (the only Blu-Ray
deck currently on the market) but whatever the cause these defects mar
As with the other Blu-Ray discs that Sony has released so far, this
one comes with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack as well as a DD 5.1 track.
I viewed this with the PCM audio and technically it sounded good.
The reproduction was accurate and the dialog was easy to hear. The
tonal quality was good, and there was a lot of detail in the soundtrack
with light sounds being reproduced distinctly and clearly.
The biggest problem I had with was that the mix was very anemic.
The audio for just about the entire film is centered on the screen.
There isn't much use of stereo panning much less the rear channels.
Yes, once in a while a sound will come out from the rears to startle the
viewer, but aside from this and some low level music, the back speakers
are pretty much forgotten.
The two-disc LE version of this film had a good number of extra features
and it is a bit disappointing to see only a few ported over to this Blu-Ray
release. I guess we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth though,
this could be a Lions Gate release and have no extras at all.
This disc includes a commentary with director Christopher Nolan which is pretty
dry. This is the same commentary that was on the LE, and Nolan spends
a lot of the time describing the action on the screen and relating how
certain shots were filmed. There are some long gaps in the narrative
that make the track slow down even more. While it isn't my favorite
commentary, I'd rather have it on the disc that have it omitted.
The other bonus item is a 25-minute Anatomy of a Scene that features
interviews with the writer/director, editor, composer, and actor Joe Pantoliano.
This was a nice show that originally aired on the Sundance channel, and
I was happy to see its inclusion.
Memento is a favorite film of mine and I was quite happy to see
it make the leap to HD. An excellent film that will really appeal
to people who enjoy piecing a movie together to figure out what it's saying,
it stands up well to repeated viewing. While this Blu-ray disc does
look better than the SD limited edition set that I compared it with, it
wasn't perfect. The amount of digital noise was greater than it should
be and not all of the scenes had that visual depth that the best HD programing
has. I was also disappointed, once again, that only a few of the
bonus features have been ported over. If Sony wants viewers to fork
over a grand for a new Blu-Ray player and then spend $30 upgrading our
collections, the least they can do is let early adopters sell off their
old SD discs. Since there are so many features on the LE that are
missing from this disc, I won't be getting rid of my SD version any time
soon. The bottom line is that this disc looks better than the previous
release, and contains an excellent movie. For those reasons I'm giving
this disc a Highly Recommended rating (my first for a Blu-Ray disc.)