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‘Memento’: Film Review

With the upcoming new Oppenheimer biopic being a much-discussed topic these days, acclaimed director Christopher Nolan is now once more the subject of regular mention (at least on the web).

Most of us will undoubtedly remember him from his vast array of outstanding and – dare we say – unique cinematic works.

No doubt many fans will instantly recall such masterpieces as Inception (2010), Dunkirk (2017) Interstellar (2014) and the grounded & gritty Dark Knight trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012) which gave us the Batman “we deserve” and perhaps even “the one we need right now”.

Yet there is one specific work of Nolan that even the most ardent fans tend to overlook – by the name “Memento” (2000).

Based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan (the director’s own brother) it puts forth to us an intriguing tale presented in a non-linear narrative.

At first glance the story arc appears quite simple enough. A lone man sets out on a quest to seek vengeance for the murder of his beloved wife (intending to keep this review spoiler-free, this is as far as I can allow myself to go).

Unsurprisingly this is a rather common trope that may seem all too familiar to the audiences of modern-day action clichés and popcorn flicks, but here is the ace up Nolan’s sleeve; to give us a protagonist suffering from an unusual form of memory loss. Whereas we are mostly familiar with retrograde amnesia i.e. the inability to record past events, our hero has a somewhat more complex issue – anterograde amnesia – he is unable to form new memories.

This seemingly minuscule detail sets in motion an all but mediocre change in terms of plot development. By far it offers us quite the visual experience as it juggles between the actions of our hero (spoiler alert) Leonard; portrayed as he navigates the pubs and streets in search of his wife’s killer, contrasting against that of the “objective” real world’s views; forging his memory to continue his mission; in the form of tattoos and handwriting note scrawled over polaroid photographs.

Here we are presented the film from two viewpoints. A forward chronology of black and white shots interspersed with a backwards narrative in color; all the while with our protagonist’s noteworthy “focus… stay focused… keep it in” ringing in our ears as he hustles for the paper and pen to record every major lead (tattoos may be permanent, but sadly not instant – indeed as much to our own sorrow as Leonard’s).

From a medical viewpoint, the film does have its fair share of plot holes, the most notable being how the hero has to record even the slightest social interaction within mere seconds before it forever leaves the confines of his memory, yet somehow manages to retain memory of his condition, despite actually learning of its existence, not soon after its onset.

To put it in simpler terms, it remains unclear how he does not wake up suddenly and wonder how he is covered in seemingly random and unrelated tattoos. Then again one might argue that it was essential for the sake of the story, to maintain the consistency of the narrative.

That being said, “Memento” is a film that is definitely worth-the-watch.

Nolan successfully serves a full course helping of suspense, action and (by a long shot) medical drama all mixed to perfection on a platter of great acting and (above all) the well-known classic Nolan-style of epic storytelling.

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