Nowadays Christopher Nolan is known and highly respected for the overrated Inception and highly popular Batman re-imaginings. Back in 2000 he made a lesser-known film called Memento, which actually outshines some of his recent work.
Memento, which was his second full-length feature, was based on a short story called "Memento Mori" by his brother, Jonathan Nolan. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is revealed as an unreliable narrator, and you have to take what he says a face value.
Hit on the head during an attack on him and his wife, Leonard has no short term memory.
It's not amnesia, he explains, but he probably won't remember their conversation in a few minute's time. Actually, it's a specific kind of amnesia, called anterograde amnesia.
Although it can be implausible at times, Memento is no cheap soap opera, nor a cheap exploitation of it's subject matter. Leonard cannot remember anything that occurs after the accident. In order to create "new" memories, he writes notes or tattoos details on his skin.
On his hand is printed "remember Sammy Jankis," and a sideplot reveals the sad story of an older man with his condition.
Leonard's mission is to find and kill the men who raped his wife and caused his head injury. He is helped by a suspicious, flippant cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a manipulative she-bitch whose drug dealer boyfriend is recently missing.
He finds neither of them totally trustworthy and must rely on himself to find the perpetrators. But can he?
The film is cleverly structured and told in reverse, so that you gradually move on to the earlier events in the story. Guy Pearce, a slightly more inconspicuous actor, was picked by Nolan over superstars like Brad Pitt. He does a good job, showing Leonard's confusion and resolve, although he is not as compelling as Ralph Fiennes in David Cronenberg's similarly mind-bending thriller Spider.
Memento, in it's darkness and ambiguity, can easily pass as film noir. Another noir-ish element is the dark developments of its characters. Even Leonard's beloved wife is revealed to not be all she seems. Although one of Nolan's earlier works and not a cinema-packer like The Dark Knight, Memento deserves a wide viewership and stands as a capable thriller with an outstanding twist.
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