Momento being defined as something to serve as a reminder or warning can be a beginning of how to look at the Christopher Nolan Film. One reminder can easily trigger a set of events or cause the mind to believe in something related to a momento. This is what the film plays on.
What’s important to note with this film is the order of the film is reverse chronology meaning it basically starts with the end going back to the start in which it all evidently becomes an explanation for everything, leading you to create guesses of who did what and how it happened.
We’re opened up into this neo-noir psychological thriller with a Polaroid photography of a dead man before a backing sequence of the photo to its undeveloped state, entering the camera before the man had been shot showing the brilliance of new screen effects at their finest.
The film then locates Leonard Shelby(Guy Pearce) through a series of black and white clips on a phone-call to an unknown caller. Leonard has Anterograde Amnesia meaning his short term memory ability to store memories isn’t possible. Leonard explains that he killed the attacker who raped and strangled his wife, but a second clubbed him and escaped. The police decided not to accept the story of a second attacker therefore leading Leonard to try gain revenge through his only investigation of using a series of notes, tattoos and Polaroids but only has the facts of his name being John or James and the last name starting with a G. Leonard recalls a fellow anterograde amnesiac: Sammy Jankis. Sammy’s diabetic wife, who wasn’t sure if his condition was genuine, repeatedly requested insulin for him to stop. As a result, she overdosed, subsequently falling into a fatal coma after realising he wasn’t actually putting the act on.
The reverse chronology of the story continues as the watcher uncovers the mysteries themselves, trying to figure out who the J.G killer is? And whether or not it’s someone who Leonard is close too such as Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) who claims to be Leonard’s close friend but is an undercover cop who eventually turns out to be the guy on the phone at the beginning.
But before any of this theory conspires together, Nolan takes us through subsequent sub-plots to try gain a greater understanding of Leonard’s condition. Showing how certain events come to terms and creating this idea of a system that needs to be in place otherwise Leonard simply has no clue over the events shown by one scene in which Natalie(Carrie-Anne Moss) shouts at him, naming him such words as a ‘f**king freak’ and ‘retard’ which then resulted in her, sort of deserving, being punched by Leonard but this soon shows the levels of the amnesia as just 5 minutes later Natalie walks back into the house only for Leonard to ask who did that to her in which she ends up using him for her own personal gain. A story of many sub-plots and divides showing what Amnesia can really be like.
At this point, it’s important to note the attention to detail which is placed, by this concept of murder mystery playing a part with Leonard relying on ‘facts’ which have been tattooed onto his body to remind him everyday of his wife’s death and the revenge he sets out to do. How does he know a tattoo wasn’t someone manipulating hi, into gaining a tattoo with that on?
What continues is a clever usage of reverse-chronology to reveal Leonard was Sammy Jankis as well as the final scene to reveal that Teddy was in fact the previous caller whose been helping Leonard hunt down J.G’s for over a year in the hope he remembers that he actually killed the real murderer over a year ago and the chronology of the film is actually just Leonard creating an illusion otherwise he would have no satisfaction. He forgets about what Teddy tells him and it ends off where it began in the building where he believes Teddy is J.G despite clearly not being him and shooting him.
Despite showing some signs of a film with a slightly confusing plot-line, it can really be a highlight in Nolan’s career, explaining why he’s gone onto create such films as Batman and Inception. This pays no price in establishing the brilliance of Christopher Nolan and I would highly recommend the film, but ensure you pay attention.
(Read review in reverse-chronology for the true plot…)