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The Matrix (1999)


The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

The Matrix is a sci fi action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski. I stars Keanu “Whoa” Reeves, Laurence “Event Horizon” Fishburne, Carrie-Anne “Memento” Moss, Joe “The Goonies” Pantoliano, and Hugo “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” Weaving.

Computer programmer Thomas A. Anderon (Reeves), a.k.a. “Neo”, leads a double life, using his hacking skills to try to learn the answer to the question “What is the Matrix?” Strange messages popping up on his computer screen lead him first to a run-in with mysterious MIB-like figures called Agents, led by Agent Smith (Weaving), and then to a group led by the enigmatic underground hacker Morpheus (Fishburne), who offers him the opportunity to learn about the Matrix. After locating and removing a tracking device inserted during what Neo had thought was a horrible nightmare, several members of Morpheus’ inner circle take Neo to meet their leader in secret. Neo is offered two pills: a blue one that would send him back to his old life, and a red one that would allow him to finish his quest. He chooses the red pill, and his perception of reality turns completely upside-down.

He finds himself in a liquid-filled pod – one of countless thousands – attached with tubes and cables to a massive mechanical structure. He is rescued by Morpheus’ team in the hovership Nebuchadnezzar and nursed into physical functionality, whereupon he learns the sickening truth: The year is closer to 2199 than 1999, and humanity has been enslaved by intelligent machines created in the early 21st century, locked away to be used as living batteries; the Matrix is a Lotus Eater program designed by the machines to keep their batteries docile. Morpheus is a member of a group whose mission it is to “unplug” people from the Matrix, freeing them from this dream world and recuiting them to fight the machines. Fortunately, his awareness of the Matrix allows him to learn how to hack the simulated reality, bending the accepted laws of physics and using the jack in the back of his head to instantly download the information he needs to take down the Matrix from within. His mission is not without hazards, however, not least of which are the Agents, sentient security programs who hunt down and eliminate redpills like Neo, and of these, the most dangerous seems to be one Agent Smith…

I admit – I was impressed by this movie, from the concept of OMG NOTHING’S REAL to HOLY SHIT I CAN HACK REALITY. The bullet time effects were effective in showing events that in real time would go by too quickly to really perceive, and the CGI helped to enhance the pseudoreality effect rather than detract from it. All the “Matrix” scenes have a slight greenish tinge to subconsciously let the viewer know that something is Ever So Slightly Not Right, but in a way that you can’t specifically put your finger on it. And the homogenous, identical Agents were effectively menacing in their anonymity and their little talent of taking over “human” programs pretty much at will, as demonstrated by the “woman in the red dress” simulation. It tries to be philosophical at times about the perception of reality, the nature of reality, and transcending mental limits, but really, you watch a movie like this to see reality stretched to its logical limits.

However, the acting at times was… meh. I’m not just talking about Keanu’s performance (though everybody does), but most of the main cast. There just didn’t seem to be enough there to make me sympathize with Morpheus’ team of reality hackers, not even “digital pimp” Mouse. Only Fishburne seemed to realize that emoting = good, and that was mainly in the scenes where he was having his brain hacked by Agents. That said, the particular brand of non-acting utilized by the Agents did help to highlight their inhumanity, and made Smith’s first steps into glitchiness subtly discernible. Weaving’s drawling American accent was menacingly artificial, and reminded me of the G-Man in the Half-Life games (probably the exact same character archetype, but anyway). In fact, it was not for a long time that I learned that Weaving was actually Australian. Props to you, Hugo.

As a philosophical discussion of the nature of reality and fate, The Matrix falls eversoslightly short, but as a flashy action movie with reality-bending and innovative (for the day) effects and stunts, this movie wins. Switch off your brain and enjoy the ride.

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  1. 02/14/2011 at 1:33 pm

    I love the Matrix and I don’t really agree with your comment on the “bad” acting. They use a style that is sober and not very warm, but then again: they’re fighting reality 😉
    Seriously: it deserves to be a classic and I hope they don’t screw up the two extra sequels the’yre going to make.

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