Sins of the past

Following the well-acted, well-intentioned but unsatisfying Devil’s Knot (2013) and The Captive (2014), filmmaker Atom Egoyam makes a strong return to form with Remember, a spine-chilling thriller fraught with ironic turns and wicked plot twists.

Upon the death of his wife, nursing-home resident Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer) makes good on his vow to friend Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau).

He is to leave the facility, travel to New York, purchase a gun, and then track down four men named Rudy Kurlander at various points throughout North America.

Zev and Max not only reside in the same facility, but they also share a history at Auschwitz, where Kurlander was an SS officer, responsible for countless murders. Only Zev can identify the correct Kurlander, and then he is to kill him.

There’s just one hitch: Zev is suffering from dementia and must rely on Max’s letter to guide him in this dire task. As Zev embarks on this fateful journey through his own forgotten past, the pieces of the puzzle methodically come into focus. Only at the end does the full picture emerge, in a shattering denouement.

Plummer is absolute perfection as Zev, combining shaky resolve and determination with vulnerability and pathos. This lion in winter, who won a long-overdue Oscar in 2010 for Beginners at age 82, continues to go from strength to strength. This is yet another triumphant turn for the venerable and versatile actor.

The supporting cast is equally fine: Landau, Bruno Ganz, Jurgen Prochnow, Heinz Lieven, and Henry Czerny as Zev’s concerned son. Dean Norris, excellent as the state-trooper son of one Rudy Kurlander, shares a sequence with Plummer that must rank as one of the year’s most suspenseful.

Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) or Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), Remember uses its principal character’s condition (amnesia in the earlier films, dementia in this one) as a pivotal dramatic device, and it’s surely no coincidence that Mychael Danna’s superb score echoes Bernard Herrmann.

Likewise, the film uses the Holocaust as a device, but not in a cheap or offensive way. Remember is first and foremost an entertainment – and a first-rate one at that – yet there are layers and textures that darken it. This is one of the very best movies of the season, and one to remember (no pun intended) at year’s end.

Remember opens Friday !

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