MEMENTO, the second feature by writer-director Christopher Nolan (FOLLOWING), is an intricately constructed film noir that masterfully inverts time to comment on the foggy relationship between memory and truth. MEMENTO tells the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a former insurance investigator who witnesses a brutal attack on his wife. Knocked unconscious, Leonard wakes up with a rare brain condition--he no longer possesses short-term memory. He can remember his name and all the details of his past, but he can no longer make new memories. Armed with a careful system of remembering details (he compulsively snaps Polaroids and scribbles notes, then tattoos the important facts directly onto his body), the distraught Leonard goes on a manhunt to avenge his wife's death. To illustrate the unique and frightening state of the protagonist's mind (he cannot remember what happened even seconds before), Nolan takes a brilliantly successful risk in telling the story backward. The film begins with Leonard killing the man he's looking for. From there MEMENTO unravels a compellingly disconcerting trail back to the start. As the layers of the story are peeled back scene by scene, Leonard's involvement with two enigmatic friends--who both claim to be helping him--complicates the mystery.
Based on a short story by the director's brother, Jonathan Nolan, MEMENTO is an incredibly original film that is so wonderfully puzzling and eerily ambiguous that it will surely warrant repeated viewings.
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