As a longtime admirer of filmmaker Atom Egoyan, I was eager
to see his latest effort, all the more so since it stars Christopher Plummer,
Martin Landau, Bruno Ganz, and Dean Norris. All I knew about it going in was
that it dealt, in some way, with the Holocaust. I am now proselytizing for Remember and fear that it will be
identified—and oversimplified—as a Holocaust story when in fact it’s a taut,
original, and provocative thriller. Yes, the leading characters are connected
by their experiences in concentration camps during World War II, but this is a
modern-day mystery where the pieces take time to fall into place, right up to
the final scene. That is what makes Benjamin August’s screenplay so ingenious.
divulging more than I should, Plummer plays a man who lives in a retirement
home. His wife has just passed away, and his best friend at the home (Landau)
reminds him that he made a solemn promise to his wife, as outlined in a
hand-written letter. He is honor-bound to find the Gestapo survivor responsible
for his family’s demise and kill him.
task is complicated by the fact that Plummer is suffering from the early stages
To say more
would betray the film, which has more than its share of surprises.
Egoyan has said
that he felt his job was to serve the screenplay, and that he has done
supremely well. There are no flourishes or personal touches one might find in
his earlier work, just the skilled hand of a director who knows how to get the
most out of any given scene or situation. Plummer, Landau, and the other actors
are perfectly cast (and the leading man even gets to play the piano, which he
does with professional skill).
Remember is August’s first produced
screenplay, and all the more notable for that. It’s the kind of picture that
forces you to think about clues he has left on the path toward its resolution. He
has said that he wanted to create a vehicle for older actors who are relegated
to supporting roles in most movies, and he has delivered on that promise.