Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Probably a tie with Prestige for my favourite Nolan film and easily one of the greatest films of the last decade. rather than starting a new thread I thought I'd post my review on this magnificent film, this review was done before Dark Knight was released but for me including Inception this and Prestige stand up as Nolan's peak.
Universally appalauded when originally released back in 2000, Christopher Nolan break out second feature is quite possibly one of the most original and most audacious thrillers of all time. It defintely can take it's place alongside such modern classics like Usual Suspects & Se7en.
Having already impressed with his debut Following, Nolan takes it up a considrable few nothches with this deliciously devious piece of celluloid. After intoducing us to his style with his debut, Nolan's decision to tell his story based on a short story by his brother Johnathan adapted to a screenplay by himself backwards is a stroke of genius.
The idea of showing each last scene as the jump off for the next interrupted by B&W segements filling in the blanks of the story as it progresses just pulls you in and keeps you intrigued to the revelatory ending. His ability to disorientate the viewer and to put you in Leonards view point as well as still managing to make sure by the end an intelligent enough viewer has followed the story and got it rather than scratching their head with disbelief. The twist is gradual but it works that more effectively than a pull the rug from under you affect. You definitely get the sense the protagonist is not entirely as trustworthy as he is from the start of the film as the film progresses. The ending works as it doesn't come from out of nowhere, the seeds of the conclusion are definitley there from the beginning onwards. If you get a chance check out the Easter Egg The beginning of the end which allows you to watch the film forwards as it really happens.
Leonard Selby (Guy Pierce) has a condition which doesn't allow him to keep short term memories. We are told by Leonard he was afflicted with this condition after being knocked unconcious after confronting in his house the man who murdered and raped his Wife.
Leonard has learned to keep his memories by taking polaroid photo's or having tattoo's all over his body with vital information contained. This is to assist Leonard in his attempt to find his Wife's murderer and kill them. Nolan decison to use the polaroids & tattoo's is one of things which marks this out as so original. I can't recall such a plot device before, it also contributes to the unfolding of the story that is much more interesting and engaging than traditional thriller devices.
He is assisted or maybe not by Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) & Natalie ( Carrie-Ann Moss), due to his condition Leonard is open to being manipulated and Leonard can never be sure whether he is being used. Teddy's motivation always seems suspect although that might be Pantaliano's usual casting, it works to the films strengths, not to say too much as I don't want to give the game away, lets say his involvement is ambiguious. Moss's Natalie is a bit of a mystery and Nolan's narrative device keeps revealing more twists and turns about her as the story unfolds.
The use of Leonard's past as a Insurance Investigator and his story of Sammy Jankis (the excellent Stephen Toblowsky) hints at another theory to Leonards situation, Teddy defintiely gives an impression the story of Jankis Leonard recounts to help himself with his condition may have more to it. Infact the film is open to different interpretations like The Usual Suspects. Just because someone says it, doesn't necessarily mean it's true and the nature of the film leaves it open to the viewer to make their mind up.
Quite simply masterful film making, Nolan is simply a craftsman assited by Wally Pfister's cinematography and Patti Podesta's production design. This was to be the first film of the hugely sucessful Nolan,Pfister partnership, recalling to me the success of Oliver Stone & Robert Richardsons run of films, both men complimenting each other brilliantly.
Pearce who had already made his mark as Ed Exley in L.A Confidential is simply superb as Leonard, evoking the condition of his character, he hints Leonard may not be all seems and his handling of the role is what holds the piece together so well.
Moss & Pantaliano hit their marks perfectly, Moss showing a different side to her groundbreaking performance as Trinity in the first Matrix film, it's a shame she seems to have somewhat dissapeared, the role proves she's capable of more than just dressing up in leather flipping around firing guns while falling in love with Keanu Reeves's.
Pantaliano an actor who always seems to give value for money as well as being one of the best things about the Matrix, he has appeared most significantly in later seasons of the Soprano's is perfectly cast as Teddy. You never know where you are with or where his loyalties lie, he also provides most of the humour the film posseses as well.
David Julyan's who added to the atmosphere of Following brings even more of an ominous feel to the proceedings with his effective score, alongside Phfister as a regular Nolan contributor with the exception of the Batman films, a shame really I would have liked to see Julyan score Begins and Dark Knight.
It Still has it's same impact 8 years later if not more, it seems to have aged brilliantly and has rarely been bettered. Insomnia is a fine film with 2 great lead performances and Batman Begins was more than we could have expected from the Batman franchise but I would say it is only The Prestige which has come near to matching the brilliance of this exceptional film.