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Memento



A man with short term memory loss tries to take revenge on the person who raped and murdered his wife and injured him(that led to his condition).

The movie switches between two storylines. One is a linear story told from the perspective of the protagonist, who obviously suffers from memory loss issues and the other is told backwards in chunks of 3-10 minute scenes, so in this second storyline, the ending is the beginning. By now many people have dissected the story to death, so I will keep it simple, as far as plot is concerned. It's the story of a man's revenge who is incapable of remembering that he ever exacted his revenge even if he did. So, over the course of the movie we realize that lot of shady characters are taking advantage of his situation for their benefit. Over the course of the movie we see him figuring out what he has done few minutes ago either with the help of polaroids or instinctively or spontaneously and use that knowledge to work forward, this makes for a very interesting thriller. It also helps us in understanding his condition because we know about things just the way he does. So we know what is happening now without knowing what happened before it. The twist in the movie left me a little cold because of its semi-conventional nature and also because the movie lays the blame on the protagonist himself for various puzzle pieces in the mystery at the heart of the movie. Nonetheless, it's a very thrilling movie and a must see.

Now the aspect of the movie I do want to elaborate is the concept of protagonist in the movie and the tone and feel of the movie. For a while now I have been trying to find a common theme/aspect among all the movies that become memorable over time with very strong ardent fan base and the one thing I can think of is the concept of a hero or anti-hero. No movie without a clear cut hero/anti-hero has never gained strong fan base especially with men. Audience need 1 character to follow for significant portion of the movie. You can follow other characters for 5 or 10 minutes but not the whole movie. This concept is nowhere more apparent than with the filmography of christopher nolan. The "limitations" of this hero concept is that the more heroic the protagonist is the better the movie feels. If the hero of the story is a bum then the movie doesn't work for general audience. But as long as a director is capable of making the protagonist feel heroic/anti-heroic at the end of the day, the movie works. I personally think the protagonist in this movie, Leonard Shelby played by Guy Pearce is one of best in movies ever.

Let's see the physical aspects of the protagonist. He is ripped as hell, he is blonde, he has a very defined cheekbones, he has the right amount of tattoos on his body and his dress is bluish grayish shirt and coat. I mean, that's the perfect dress code for a hero in a movie. He even has a polaroid camera that he carries around with him and hides in his jacket with a shoulder strap which looks so cool. And he also beats up and subdues two guys that are bigger than him. His psychological problems as too complicated and too specific that they stop feeling like a disability and start feeling, dare I say sexy and makes him unique. It's like having different colored pupil. The hurdles and challenges faced by protagonist never feel like something faced by a lazy person or bum, they feel more like obstacles faced by a detective while solving a crime. That is genius. So even his struggle to get to the next moment in the day feels like watching a perfectly abled and smart person figuring out stuff. As the character says in the movie, it takes discipline to make it work. Chris Nolan seems to believe that no matter how absurd or unfortunate condition you are in, it is how you react to that situation/challenge that will either make you are hero to root for or a loser. There is a really unique and weirdly badass scene where the protagonist forgets why he is running while running and he looks at a man running parallely to him on the other side of a van, so first he thinks he is chasing that guy and then once he is getting shot at, he realizes he is being chased. In this movie Chris Nolan expertly familiarizes audience with the protagonist's memory condition by showing us scenes where doctors try to treat a patient with the same condition and also by showing how the hero deals with it. That's something we often see in Nolan movies. Never introduce a strange concept to audience and end the movie with just basics in that concept. Always take audience 2 or 3 steps further into the concept. Its like, if you introduce audience to alphabets then end the movie after showing them how paragraphs and sentences work. So they will feel like they are experts in something new and that's a good feeling to leave audience with. So with this techniques Nolan makes the protagonist feel more badass than most other movie heroes and all his emotions feel earned.

Speaking of the tone and feel of the movie, this is an independent movie made for less than 10 million $. But it never feels cheap. Even to this day it feels very rich. The locations in the movie are very specific and are in close ups so you don't see any structures that can date the movie. The brooding protagonist and locations in the movie went on to become the indicators of auteur style of nolan in his future filmography. You can make an indie drama with same budget and feel cheap. But I think its the combination of locations in the movie(San francisco/LA/Las vegas), the look of the protagonist and characters in the movie and the cinematography(both day and night) in the movie made the movie look much richer than its budget can afford. Even the protagonist's car is a Jaguar xk8 and it looks so cool.

So, in conclusion, this is a freaking great movie and its the work of a master filmmaker. He is not only thinking about how it will look at the time he made the movie but also about how it will look in the future. Many filmmakers are just happy to have made the movie but only the ones who are confident of their vision and legacy will take these kind of things into consideration. It also shows that unique singular visions can have heroes and anti-heroes. Many of the indie directors that want to be auteurs try to make ensemble movies. The downside of this move is, vast majority of the audience, especially men between 15-40 dont like that. They want a hero/anti-hero in the story to root for and once they achieve their goal or purpose, endorphins/adrenaline will be released in audience and THAT is what makes them a lifelong diehard fans of the movie. They seeks those reactions everytime they watch the movie. It's like a drug you get while watching the movie and Chris Nolan movies offer that.