Zev Gutman (Christopher Plummer) is a 90-something Auschwitz survivor. Following the death of his wife, Zev is sent on a mission by one of his friends in his nursing home, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), to take out the Nazi who oversaw the murder of both of their families in the infamous death camp.
There’s a twist, though. Zev’s dementia means he can barely make it through the day. Every time he wakes up—from a midday nap or a full night’s sleep—he searches for his wife, Ruth. The only thing that keeps him on track is the fact that Max, physically infirm but mentally lucid, has written a letter with detailed instructions taking Zev from state to state (and into Canada) as he attempts to track down "Rudy Kurlander," the assumed identity of SS officer Otto Wallisch. Think of it as Memento, but with a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor in Guy Pearce’s role and fewer chronological shenanigans.
The problem, as we learn from the snippets of Max’s letter that Zev reads aloud during the film, is there are actually four Rudy Kurlanders, all of whom could be Wallisch. They emigrated from Germany to America around the same time and are about the same age. Will Zev find the man who wiped out his family in Germany before his son returns him to the old folks home?
At a brisk 90 minutes, Remember never risks losing the audience’s attention. Director Atom Egoyan’s psychological tour through the different kinds of Germans who emerged from Hitler’s reign and made it to America is fascinating. Of special note is a sequence involving the son of one of the Rudy Kurlanders, played by Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, who has absorbed his father’s less admirable qualities. Norris plays the role perfectly, moving from interested observer keen to pick the brain of a German he thinks knew his dad when they were pals during Kristallnacht to an angry bigot confronted with a Jew in his home.
Plummer himself is perfect for this role. There aren’t too many others who could convincingly play a demented nonagenarian with such verve. He’s convincing enough to sell the film’s final twist, which packs an emotional punch but starts to fall apart if you pick at the strands holding it together for more than a few minutes.