Memory Director Martin Campbell on Film's Challenges & Gray Areas
Martin Campbell has accomplished so much within the film industry with a career spanning nearly six decades as a director. Primarily known for his work in action, Campbell has worked on both TV and film. Some of his biggest projects are NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street, James Bond films for MGM in GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006), and the Antonio Banderas-starred Zorro films for Sony. I spoke to the director about his latest project, Memory, which is based on the novel De zaak Alzheimer by Jef Geeraerts and subsequent Belgian film by Carl Joos and Erik Van Looy, working with star Liam Neeson, and the film's moral gray area.
"I was shown the [Belgian original] film in 2013; someone gave me a DVD," Campbell said. "I really liked the film. I thought it was really interesting and different. The Alzheimer's element was different. I tried to get the rights to a remake of the movie. I couldn't because the option had been taken by somebody else. Three years later, I got it, sent it to Liam Neeson, met him, and he said he wanted to do it, and so we made it. He's the perfect age as the hitman getting Alzheimer's. He really wants to retire, hang up his gun, basically. Liam, simply because he is such a good actor, he's just perfect for the part. For somebody playing someone, who is morally kind of despicable in the sense that his profession as a professional hitman, he kills people and kills them for money, Liam has a natural empathy that I think comes out on screen. So you like him despite what his profession is. So I thought that was important too."
Campbell laid out Alex's natural progression to the final act. "What we did with the Alzheimer's is we talked to an Alzheimer's specialist," he said. "We also did a lot of research on Alzheimer's. I went through the script and marked up all the different scenes. I progressively marked up how he would be affected. So to start with, he merely forgets where he puts the key to his car, and by the end of it, he has deteriorated much more so because, as a movie, we had to obviously contract the timeline. What people don't realize at the age of 35, you can get Alzheimer's, and it's a long, progressive horrible kind of condition. We just carefully plot that through. We sat down both of this went through scene-by-scene, and that's how really we that's how we worked it out."
The key dynamic within Memory is the relationship between Neeson's Alex Guy Pearce's FBI agent in Vincent Serra, dealing with the investigation and the rampant interference from those in power. "There are differences to the original movie," Campbell said. "We pretty much follow the fencepost dramatically. That was in the original script. I upped the action more than was in the original. The ending is totally different from the original movie, and the gray areas, which are always fascinating. Certainly, the relationship between Liam and Guy Pearce, who's the cop that, is in a very gray area because Guy['s character] stepped right over the line in this [film]. It's the only way he sees he sees justice is possible. I think because clearly, his bosses don't want this to happen, don't want to investigate it for their own self-interest. Guy is forced to essentially strike up a pact, if you will, with Liam's character in order to see justice done. So you have a gray area, absolutely."
Memory follows Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson), an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision. Caught in a moral quagmire, Alex refuses to complete a job that violates his code and must quickly hunt down and kill the people who hired him before they and FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce) find him first. Alex is built for revenge but, with a memory that is beginning to falter, he is forced to question his every action, blurring the line between right and wrong.