Leonard Shelby (Pearce) is on a mission to find out who raped and murdered his wife- and why. Unfortunately, the same violent act has robbed Leonard of his short-term memory, so he must meticulously record whatever he learns on Post-It Notes and Polaroids, working steadily backward in time to solve the mystery. Two people with undetermined loyalties, Teddy (Pantoliano) and Natalie (Moss), are around to help guide (or distract) Leonard in his mind-bending quest. Under these trying conditions, will Leonard uncover the mystery?
This ingenious thriller, a breakthrough for writer/director Nolan, dares to be different, and the effort pays off. Since the audience sees most everything from Leonard's disoriented perspective, the movie requires more careful attention than your average thriller. Happily, "Memento" is suspenseful and engrossing enough to command that attention. Pearce makes an ideal Leonard, a desperate man skirting insanity, but the always arresting Pantoliano steals the show as the shady, enigmatic Teddy. You may not always know what's going on, but misdirection was never this much fun.