The fact that many war criminals escaped unscathed from the aftermath of World War II is still preposterous. And the old-fashioned revenge film, “Remember,” banks on this fact. It’s a film littered with contrived drama, a mystery that rests on the memory loss of its lead character, a la “Memento.” And while Christopher Plummer gives a powerful performance, “Remember” is manipulative and lacks an emotional tether and a fully realized plot.
“Ruth?” Zev Gutman (Plummer) asks upon waking every morning. He suffers from dementia and his wife has passed away a couple of weeks prior. Walking through the assisted living center in a daze for the most part, Zev is confronted by fellow resident and friend Max Rosenbaum (Max Landau), who tasks him with a mission. Sending him to various locations in Canada and the U.S., Zev is to find and kill the Nazi soldier who killed their families at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Making sure Zev doesn’t forget, Max outlines everything in a letter, checking in with him now and again.
The problem here is that Zev’s dementia leaves him confused, often to the point of not knowing where he is or why he’s there. He’s unstable and has managed to block out the majority of his memories, to the benefit of the plot. He moves from place to place, looking for the man who killed his family, facing a few former Nazi soldiers or their kin but never managing to find the right one. But it’s what Zev can’t remember that will be his true undoing.
Christopher Plummer plays Zev to great effect. His performance is poignant and stricken with a grief that he feels deeply, but hauntingly can’t connect with because he can’t remember it clearly. However, Plummer’s portrayal of a Holocaust survivor is short of being emotionally impactful due to the lack of buildup and dawdling in the script. Director Atom Egoyan (“Where the Truth Lies,” “The Captive”) tries to layer the film with pathos, but it never feels genuine. There are a couple of moments meant to shock, but they don’t hit the mark.
“Remember” manipulates the audience and in doing so, lessens the impact of the film’s finale. The laser focus on remaining a mystery and choosing not to involve itself in the depths of the character’s emotional journey or the aftermath leaves a vacant hole in the film’s story. Egoyan relies on the shock value more than anything else, and after following Zev from place to place with the same result and no progress in his development due to his memory loss, the film doesn’t pack the emotional punch that it should.
"Remember" manipulates the audience and in doing so, lessens the impact of the film's finale. The laser focus on remaining a mystery and choosing not to involve itself in the depths of the character's emotional journey or the aftermath leaves a vacant hole in the film's story.