a critiQal film review The Matrix (1999)

Plot: It's 1999, and Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is a computer programmer by day - and a hacker named Neo by night. When he is contacted by the elusive Morpheus (Fishburne), Neo is told that the year is closer to 2199 - and the world he thinks of as "real" is nothing more than a computer simulation named "The Matrix," used to distract his brain while his body is used like a battery to power the corrupt machines of the future. Morpheus is convinced Neo is The One, a human who is prophesied to bring about the destruction of The Matrix.

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  • ...stellar performances, a thoroughly enjoyable script, and special effects so good they are still being copied to this day!

Recently, while I was looking through the movie reviews I still need to transfer from the old Dreamweaver site to this WordPress version, I noticed I had reviewed both The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) – but had never gotten around to reviewing the one that started it all, 1999’s The Matrix.

Having some free time while Heather was at school, I decided to go back and watch The Matrix again. Almost a decade later, would this film have lost something, or would it be just as imaginative and mind-blowing as it was back in the 20th century?

Keanu Reeves, who viewers associated more with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) than anything else, took on the lead role in The Matrix much to the chagrin of most – and then surprised everyone by turning in one of the best performances of his career. Blowing away the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) stigma, Keanu takes the viewer on a journey with Neo – and the viewer finds themselves connected to Keanu in a way they haven’t felt since Speed (1994).

After two performances of this caliber from Keanu, Keanu should be able to break away forever from the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) character – although he may have traded one character for another, as he will probably find himself linked to the Neo character for years to come.

Laurence Fishburne, long under-appreciated as an actor, really stepped into the forefront with The Matrix. He turned in a performance as Morpheus that is remembered as one of the best performances of the 90’s – even almost a decade later. With his bald pate, nose-pinching sunglasses and trenchcoat, he turned Morpheus from just another character into a character of mythic proportions. Listening to his deep-throated growl emanate out of the speakers, viewers will find themselves captivated – nay, mesmerized – by his performance.

Carrie-Anne Moss broke through as an actress to keep an eye on with her performance as Trinity in The Matrix. She is the first character of the group the viewer meets, and has to draw the viewer in all on her own. That beginning action sequence she’s in is a highlight of the film – she does a great job of giving viewers a highlight of what is to come. Having a female lead co-exist with male leads usually isn’t done in films – usually it’s the male hero and the female-in-distress scenario – but she does a great job of balancing it out, outshining many of her male counterparts in the film. Not bad for someone most had never heard of before this film.

Hugo Weaving, now wildly popular after his success with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and it’s sequels, and V For Vendetta (2006), shows why he’s become a favorite for large action pictures with his performance as Agent Smith in The Matrix – and also shows why they kept his character around for the sequels as well. Once a character hears Agent Smith speak, they immediately know he’s one of the bad guys – yet his demeanor is professionally restrained for the most part. When that professional exterior does develop a crack, it’s even more entertaining to watch him break down a bit, and succumb to urges he obviously has never experienced before.

With such a phenomenally well acted group of lead characters, The Matrix would have done well even if the plot wasn’t up to par. However, 2nd-time directors Larry and Andy Wachowski – who also co-wrote the film – managed to come up with a plot that, while combining some classic sci-fi elements, manages to stay fresh and wildly original. While the idea of “reality” being just a computer simulation seems hard to wrap the mind around at first, Larry and Andy’s slow introduction to the idea leads viewers step by step and guides them to the point where the whole idea seems so realistic, the viewer accepts the idea wholeheartedly. It’s an amazing journey that these 2 directors lead the viewer on – and one the viewer will want to experience over and over again.

A lot has been said about the special effects in The Matrix – and for good reason. The Matrix‘s effects were so groundbreaking in fact, they introduced a new word into the lexicon of the general public – “bullet-time”. While this process has since been copied in everything from other films to video games (to the point where it’s getting a little ridiculous), The Matrix is the first – and still the best. “Bullet-Time,”, like the other special effects of The Matrix have not lost anything in the past 9 years, and are still as exciting and adrenaline-pumping as they were the first time around.

With a cast exceeding all expectations with stellar performances, a thoroughly enjoyable script that immerses the viewer in a world that seems, at times, entirely plausible (even more so now as science – and computer technology – keeps advancing in leaps and bounds), and special effects so good they are still being copied to this day, The Matrix is one of the best sci-fi films out there still.

While many have balked at the two follow-up films, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), most will still agree: The Matrix is a must own. Buy this one now, if you’re one of the few who don’t own it yet. If you already own, go back and watch it again, and see for yourself how visionary it still is, even almost a decade later.

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