2001, Movie, R, 113 mins


A convoluted tour-de-force, this tale of murder and revenge is reflected in the shattered mirror of an amnesiac's memory. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) lives in a cheap L.A. motel room, but drives a flashy Jaguar sedan; he's wearing expensive suits and seems to have a lot of cash, but he isn't working. And he's as much a mystery to himself as he is to the viewer: Leonard lives in the moment and starts each day anew, not because he wants to, but because some act of catastrophic violence has destroyed his ability to form new memories. Despite this apparently insurmountable handicap, he's set himself the task of finding the man who raped and murdered his wife and avenging her brutal death. He takes Polaroids so he can identify people and places and scrawls reminders on the back so he knows what to think; he writes notes on index cards, makes charts, keeps huge files of information pertaining to his quest and has tattooed his flesh with the things he must under no circumstances forget. His only friends — if indeed they are his friends — are Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss): His Polaroid warns that he can't be trusted, while hers says she'll help Leonard out of pity. Bit by agonizing bit, Leonard pieces together the truth of what he's discovered and what he's done, but it flows through his memory like water, and every time he goes to the well, what comes up is slightly changed. The viewer, by contrast, spots inconsistencies of behavior, acts of out-and-out cruelty and other behavioral clues that Leonard can't keep in his grasp, and is put in the uncomfortable position of knowing more than he does, but not enough to know what he should be doing about it. How willing you are to surrender to its fragmented, repetitive rhythms will determine whether you find writer/director Christopher Nolan's philosophical puzzle film, based on a short story by his brother Jonathan, enthralling or infuriating. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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