Thursday, January 12, 2012

Memento - Movie Review

Ever since I saw 'Inception' I've become a fan of Christopher Nolan's films. II saw 'The Prestige' later and was impressed by what I saw. I also knew that 'Ghajini' had the same elements that Nolan's 'Memento' had, of short term memory loss and a plot of revenge and seeing the original was always at the back of my mind. 'Memento' is one of those movies that treads a path for the first time (at least as for me) and thereby expands my world. All else behind it will only make small improvements.

'Memento' is the story if a young insurance executive, Leonard Shelby, who suffers short term memory loss (i.e. he cannot store any new memories), after a violent attack on him and his wife. In this condition he forgets even the beginning of a long conversation, faces, names, numbers everything. However he remembers everything clearly up to the accident, including all the skills he had on his job as an insurance investigator and the last thing he remembers clearly, the murder of his wife who had also been raped by the murderers. He remembers two intruders while all evidence collected by the police points at one intruder, the one whom Leonard kills in the attack, and the case is closed. But not for Leonard who has to battle the haunting memory of his wife's death, the infuriating handicap of his memory loss, and find the real killer in a world that is out to use his condition to its gain. In a cold blooded, calculated and organised manner where he makes notes, sifts for facts that he tattooes onto himself, , clicks pictures to remind him of his car, his hotel, his friends etc, Leonard follows the kills the killer - John G.

The fantastic thing is that the entire movie is shown in reverse. (In fact the hotel front desk manager tells him that Leonard's life is in reverse - he knows what he wants to do next but has no idea what happened before, unlike most of us who know what happened before but have no clue about what happens next!) The first shot is the last shot, of Leonard killing John G, and then it goes backwards scene by scene, unravelling the events that led to his finding John G. These backward going scenes are interspersed by a black and white conversations of Leonard over the phone about his condition, how he is going about it and a person named Sammy Jankis whom Leonard had investigated. Ironically Sammy gets the same short term loss condition which Leonard disallows in the insurance claim believing it to be reversible - an error that leads to Jankis's wife's death. As we understand the guilt that Leaonard carries of misunderstanding of Jankis's condition and his wife's intentions, her death and how he learnt from Jankis's own condition (all available from long term memory), we also slide back in the real story. Leonard meets Natalie who gives him the clinching lead about the real John G and he finally kills him. But not before realising that the real John G had been using him to kill his adversaries, as did others like Natalie.

To me its the audacity of thought that Nolan brings to cinema that is amazingly refreshing. he uses guilt and forgiveness, vengeance and other extreme emotions to drive his characters, paints them into a corner and lets loose from there in a manner we can barely think possible. To tell it all in the first shot and unravel it as we go backward, making each moment count for the viewer, making the viewer involved totally in figuring out what happened without losing connect is the work of a master. I wanted a few questions answered and sat back watching it all again for a good part of an hour. I probably will watch it again. A must watch.

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