In a skilled adaptation, co-written by brothers Christopher and Jonathon Nolan (the author of the original short fiction piece, Memento Mori) , the film Memento breaks the established expectation for chronological order, the first scene of the film being the last moments of the story. Director Chris Nolan moves backwards through the plot, revealing crucial bits of information as the film unfolds. This stylistic decision strives to recreate the same confusion that the protagonist feels, always unsure of each step, always wondering what led him to the place that he finds himself. The moments of clarity that the protagonist experiences are cast in colour, while black and white is used to create a detached feeling, distancing both the audience and the protagonist from the action and adding a surreal element to the action occurring in such segments.
The film takes the short fiction to the next level, asking the audience to ride alongside Earl in the quest for John G. and revenge. A strong sense of suspense builds up as we roll backwards through the plot, and at nearly every corner you must reevaluate everything. The visual design of the film is incredibly realistic, as well. From blasé settings to underemphasized characterizations, the result is a wonderfully believable story. For a film made in the last decade, it’s rare to see one filmed in a setting where the word extravagant couldn’t be more misplaced; and I think it is refreshing. A drug dealer that drives a low-key Jaguar, a motel lifted right out of lower Los Angeles, and a trip through a suburban neighborhood where the biggest house might have a two-car garage, the film is set in the most real world possible. With luck, you will finish the movie and ask yourself in mild fear whether or not you’re name is John G.
One of the more pressing questions left us, I think, is whether it is the writers’ ability or their kinship that makes this adaptation work as well as it does. Both works stand alone well enough and set next to each other, the contrast is only complimentary. The film works quite well as a sequel to Memento Mori, but could also be considered a reimagining of Jonathon’s original work. The story is full of philosophical fodder, the acting is solid and the visual design and quality are both stunning. The film requires multiple viewings, but may be one of the most rewarding films you have ever stumbled across.