Audiences everywhere sat up and took major notice of Nolan with his sophomore feature, an ingenious modern film noir about an amnesiac widower (Guy Pearce) seeking vengeance upon the man who raped and murdered his wife. Adapted by Nolan from his brother Jonathan’s short story “Memento Mori,” the film unfolds along two reverse-engineered narrative tracks—one shot in black-and-white and proceeding in chronological order, the other shot in color and moving backwards in time. In each, the widower, Leonard Shelby, obsessively searches for clues about the wanted man, a certain “John G.,” tattooing each new piece of information upon his own body in defiance of the anterograde amnesia that prevents him from forming new memories. In his quest, Leonard is aided and abetted by a sultry femme fatale (Carrie-Anne Moss) and a mysterious go-between (Joe Pantoliano) who may have ulterior motives of their own. The more the movie’s jigsaw pieces snap into place, the less sure we become of Leonard Shelby’s reliability as narrator, until the two halves of the story dovetail in a stunning final twist that forces us to rethink everything that has come before. An Oscar nominee for Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing.
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