Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer and what he does is technical jobs for certain companies and as soon as he is done, his memory of the work he has done is wiped out. Now the longest he has been contracted is 2 months. But now billionaire, James Rethrick offers him a job that would last 2 years, maybe 3, and he promises that he will probably earn 8 figures. Michael agrees. Before beginning he turns in all of his personal effects. And when the job is done, his memory is erased and he learns he made over 90 million dollars over the three years. When he goes to claim it and his personal effects, he discovers that prior to the erasure of his memory he waived his rights to the money he earned and that the items that were given to him were not the ones he gave when he began. Later he is arrested by the FBI who say that he committed some act of treason and murder. It's while he is in custody that he escapes using some the items that he was given. He later meets with a friend who gives him some information that helps him understand what is going on. And at the same time Rethrick for some reason wants him so he is being pursued by Rethrick's people.
Jennings is the best reverse-engineer in the business. He is hired by clients to take apart other companies technologies and find out how they work. He is hired to do a special job, against the advice of some of his associates. When the job is completed, all memory of what he has been working on is erased from his mind. That's when his problem really start to begin. He is hunted for something he has no recollection of doing and has only a little time to work it out. He has sent himself 19 seemingly unconnected objects, before his memory was wiped, to allow him to put the puzzle together and discover just what has gone on and what he has done. But the authorities are after him and time is very quickly running out.
Jennings is an engineer who works for a company and uses their rivals' technology, alters it slightly, and has his memory wiped after each job. When he is offered a job by James Rethrick, he is told that the job will take three years and his mind will be wiped afterwords. Against the advice of his friend Shorty, he takes the job. When his mind is wiped, he heads to the bank to collect his multimillion fee where it turns out that he, during the erased three years, signed the money away and exchanged it for a group of nineteen seemingly worthless items. This film follows his efforts to uncover the secret of just what he was working on, what the items are for, evading arrest, and exploring his relationship with Rachel Porter (Thurman), a bioscientist, who is a vital part of triggering what is left of the scraps of memory left to him.
A computer engineer named Jennings awakens one day to discover that the last three years of his life and the work he did for a man named Rethrick during that time has been erased from his memory. He also learns that he agreed to the three years secret work and erasure in exchange for a huge sum of money. But when he goes to collect his paycheck, Jennings learns that before his memory was erased, he gave up the money in exchange for a small bag of worthless clues and trinkets. When the feds come looking for him, Jennings must go on the lam and try to put together the last three years so he can prove his innocence. Using the strange trinkets he previously left for himself, he goes on a journey in search of Rethrick, for whom he used to work, and how he knew that these worthless items would save his life.
Jennings, an engineer who has had part of his memory erased, struggles to to find clues to his whereabouts for the past two years. Turns out his employer did the evil deed as a security measure, leaving him only with a collection of random objects to help him reconstruct his past.
What seemed like a breezy idea for an engineer to net him millions of dollars, leaves him on the run for his life and piecing together why he's being chased.
- In the near future, Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer; he analyzes his clients' competitors' technology and recreates it, often adding improvements beyond the original specifications. To protect his clients' intellectual property and himself, Jennings, with the aid of his friend Shorty, undertakes a memory wipe to remove knowledge of his engineering.
Jennings is approached by his old college roommate, James Rethrick, the CEO of the successful Seattle technology company Allcom. Rethrick proposes a lengthy three-year reverse engineering job to Jennings, requiring him to live on Allcom's secured campus until its conclusion but rewarding him handsomely with company stock. Jennings agrees, and after arranging for his long-term absence, arrives at Allcom, turns in his personal possessions, and is given a brief tour of the facility where he meets and flirts with botanist Dr. Rachel Porter. He is injected with a long-term memory marker for the post-job memory wipe.
Three years later (June 2007), at the conclusion of the memory wipe, Jennings is sitting in Rethrick's office, being thanked for a successful job. On returning home, Jennings finds that while the Allcom stock has become quite valuable (around 500 billion dollars), he had signed away his share near the end of his tenure. Furthermore, he finds that his personal possessions have been replaced with an envelope containing a random assortment of everyday items. He is soon captured by the FBI on charges related to the death of physicist William Dekker. Jennings is able to escape custody, finding that the items in the envelope can be used at the right time to evade capture. After warning Shorty of his plight, he finds the items pointing him to a cafe meeting with Porter. Rethrick, who has been watching Jennings' movements, discovers a message to Porter of this meeting and sends a body double to take her place to try to recover the envelope. The real Porter shows up and helps Jennings escape from both the FBI and Rethrick's men.
They take shelter at a local school, examining the remaining items in the envelope while Porter tries to convince Jennings of the relationship they shared during his tenure at Allcom. One of the stamps holds a microdot that, on enlargement, reveals several pictures taken from a machine's display showing Allcom becoming financially successful with a device that can see the future, but ultimately leading to political strife and nuclear war. Jennings realizes he must have built this device using Dekker's knowledge, and on realizing the horrors that will come, prepared the envelope using the forecasts from the machine to allow his future self to return to Allcom and destroy the unit. Furthermore, as Rethrick shortly discovers, Jennings rigged the device to malfunction, preventing Rethrick from anticipating Jennings' actions.
Jennings and Porter return to Allcom and make their way to the machine room undetected, jamming the door behind them. Jennings determines the location of the defective circuit and removes it, subsequently rigging the machine to explode in a few minutes. Jennings uses the machine one last time, seeing a vision of himself being shot by an FBI agent in the catwalks above the machine. Soon, Rethrick's men storm the room, and after a brief firefight, Jennings and Porter escape to the catwalks. Rethrick is waiting there, holding them at gunpoint, the same tableau Jennings previously saw. When Jennings' watch, taken from the envelope, beeps, Jennings ducks in time to avoid the FBI agent's bullet which ends up killing Rethrick. The machine is destroyed, and Jennings and Porter escape from the FBI in the chaos. When the FBI agents arrive and investigate, they take sympathy and report Jennings killed in the destruction.
In the film's conclusion, Jennings, Porter, and Shorty have opened a greenhouse nursery. Jennings recalls a fortune cookie note from the envelope, and discovers one last act he had done with the machine, predicting the results of a 90 million dollar lottery and leaving the winning ticket in Porter's birdcage.