The Matrix


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

The Matrix
"While undoubtedly complex the story is told in a way that those paying attention will know exactly what’s going on and not have to scramble to the internet afterwards for clarification." | Photo: Warner Bros

Since computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) has always felt that there was something wrong with the world, he’s anxious to meet the mysterious pairing of Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) who claim to have answers. However, when he finds out that artificial-intelligent machines keep humans in a giant grid called “the matrix” to keep them thinking they’re living out their normal lives, his life is turned upside down. After Neo escapes and sees the real world for himself, he’s then told that the surviving humans think he is saviour of mankind…

When Morpheus vaguely whispers to Neo "No one can be told what The Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself", he wasn’t half right. However, though the complicated-sounding plot hints at an awful straight-to-DVD then straight-to-the-bin experience, The Matrix is actually a mindblowing watch and one of the most significant science-fiction movies to hit the (Joel) silver screen since Arnold put on shades and told us he’d be back.

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To accomplish this, filmmaking sisters Lilly and Lana Wachowski, find inspiration in a number of quality sources. Taking the noir vibe of Blade Runner, they mix in Hong Kong martial arts-style wire-fights, blend in the plug-in reality of Strange Days and whisk it up with doses of the ‘machines trying to exterminate mankind’ concept from both 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator. Smoothing in an underlying Christ allegory (Neo as the saviour, Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) as Judas, the one born again through the power of Trinity), some splashes of existentialism and an open reference to Alice in Wonderland as the cherry on top, this talented duo ensure cinema would never be the same again.

Despite all this, however, The Matrix is still a truly original motion picture. Brimming with neat ideas, full of depth and thought provoking in the best way possible, the Wachowskis magnus opus completely believes in itself (it has to in order to work) on every one of its multiple layers. While undoubtedly complex (any plot summary will merely scratch the surface) the story is told in a way that those paying attention will know exactly what’s going on and not have to scramble to the internet afterwards for clarification.

Though undoubtedly smart, The Matrix also delivers action on all pulse-pounding, leather-clad fronts. Wisely avoiding sci-fi staples like laser guns and space-ship battles, the Wachowskis put their own spin on traditional action methods such as kung-fu, shoot-outs and foot chases. To achieve this, they combine conventional wire-work with new “flo-mo” technology which uses stop-motion to have cameras take pictures all around the actor at the same moment (like, say if Neo jumps) to create the illusion they have paused mid-air. Make sense? Nah, thought not.

If all this wasn’t enough, The Matrix is visually stunning in every sense. Combining an atmospheric permanently rainy city with a few iconic moments and a green-tinted screen (the matrix is viewed as green numbers), the distinctive look even extends to the characters as they’re all kitted out in black, long jackets and nifty shades.

As for Keanu ‘woah dude’ Reeves, though never noted for exceptional acting range, here he does what he’s best at – looking good at the physical stuff – and assures his place in cinematic history while talking about bending spoons. In powerhouse support, Fishburne charismatically brings new meaning to the word vague, character actor Pantoliano is impressive as always and Hugo Weaving is menacing as the deliberately-speaking 'bad guy' agent. In the role of Trinity, Moss shows potential and wears a tight-fitting leather wardrobe that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Wachowskis lesbian noir thriller Bound.

Though you could wax lyrical about how The Matrix has changed movies forever (blah blah blah), perhaps the best summary offered was by acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky: “I walked out… and I was thinking, what kind of science fiction movie can people make now? The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured."

Now, were you reading this review, or were looking at the woman in the red dress?

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2009
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The Matrix packshot
Visually dazzling sci-fi thriller. Re-released in 4K restoration.
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Read more The Matrix reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray *****
Jennie Kermode *

Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Writer: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda McClory, Anthony Ray Parker

Year: 1999

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

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