As you might recall, in the first “Terminator” movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger was dispatched from the future to eliminate a woman named Sarah Connor before she could give birth to the leader of a future revolution.
The Terminator’s methodology was brutally simple. He set about killing ALL the Sarah Connors in the phone book.
You wouldn’t expect me to invoke “The Terminator” in a movie about a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor with dementia — but Atom Egoyan’s bold but often ludicrous “Remember” plays a like a mash-up of “The Terminator,” “Marathon Man” and “Memento,” as filtered through the lens of an old “Twilight Zone” episode.
The great Christopher Plummer, rising above the sometimes preposterous plot twists, plays the recently widowed Zev Guttman, a resident of an assisted living facility.
Martin Landau plays Zev’s friend Max, who tells Zev he is close to tracking down Rudy Kurlander, the Auschwitz officer who carried out the execution of their families in World War II.
Zev is quickly losing his mental faculties, but he’s still physically robust. Max is mentally sharp, but he can’t get around without a wheelchair. He needs Zev to carry out a mission to locate the real Rudy Kurlander — and kill him.
Relying on Max’s instructions, Zev takes to the road and has a number of confrontations with men named Rudy Kurlander — or in the case of the film’s most memorable scene, the son of a man named Rudy Kurlander.
Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”) plays a state trooper named John Kurlander who at first believes Zev was a dear friend of his father. When John realizes Zev is Jewish and when Zev has a moment of clarity and realizes John’s home is essentially a Nazi shrine, it’s a chilling, explosive moment.
At times Zev has to write on his arm, “Memento”-style, so he can keep facts straight. He wavers between mourning for his wife and forgetting she’s gone. Back at the assisted living facility, Landau’s Max keeps pulling the strings, and things get more complicated when Zev’s family realizes he’s gone missing.
The director Atom Egoyan has made some searing, unforgettable films, e.g., “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter.” Sometimes he swings big and misses, as in “Devil’s Knot” and “The Captive.” Working with a script from first-timer Benjamin August, Egoyan delivers a typically stylish and consistently interesting visual product — but the plot goes from eyebrow-raising to intriguing to outlandish to “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Even the world-class cast can’t save this one from teetering into the abyss.
A24 presents a film directed by Atom Egoyan and written by Benjamin August. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R (for a sequence of violence and language). Opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre.