Monday 17 November 2014

Movie Review: The Matrix (1999)

An innovative science fiction action classic, The Matrix is a a highly stylized merging of creativity, technology and stunning combat. The film that introduced the world to bullet time is a breathless journey to a disguised dystopian future, filled with memorable characters and no shortage of breathless thrills.

In a near-future world, computer hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) finds himself sucked into an underground conspiracy. Anderson tangles with government agent types, and then meets Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a rebel member who connects Anderson with her leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Morpheus recruits Thomas to the cause, and reveals the stunning reality that intelligent machines have taken over the world, and are keeping all humans in a state of suspended animation participating in an imagined reality called The Matrix, while harvesting all human energy to power the needs of the machines.

Thomas joins Morpheus' group, which includes Trinity and other rescued humans hiding out in a small levitating ship escaping detection in huge underworld sewer systems. Morpheus believes that Thomas is the One with the unique skills to combat the machines and bring down the Matrix, and names him Neo. Thomas undergoes intensive combat training before Morpheus introduces him to The Oracle (Gloria Foster), a woman who can foretell whether he is indeed the saviour. Her conclusions are vague. Morpheus is captured by the machines, Trinity and Neo fall in love, there is a traitor among the rebels, and Neo is going to have to swing into action before he has a chance to be sure of his own abilities and destiny.

The Matrix is a unique combination of thought-provoking content, a visually dazzling style, and breathless action scenes. The Wachowski brothers (Laurence, later Lana, and Andrew) create a rich cinematic experience filled with ideas to ponder about society, the role of artificial intelligence, what reality means, the power of the individual, and the importance of self-belief and love for the survival of the human race.

Similar to all of the best science fiction movies, there is no limit to the depth of the philosophical discussions that the film can prompt. But in simple terms the Matrix can represent mundane societal conformity, while also serving as a stark warning about an emerging world overwhelmed with technological influence, to the point where the needs of the machines are paramount.

Beyond the ominous science, The Matrix offers groundbreaking filmmaking imagery for the action genre. The Wachowskis combine the balletic beauty of martial arts with an impressive array of guns, slow down time while maintaining hyperactive camera work, and invent something called bullet time. The result is action redefined, bullets as active participants, new dimensions of motion created, and the previously physically impossible suddenly not only possible but necessary for survival. When Neo requests Guns. Lots of guns. prior to commencing the climactic battle, he isn't kidding, and the Wachowskis are not shy about putting them to use. The three minute lobby battle that follows sets a new standard for staging mesmeric shootouts with ornate elegance.

The look of the film is dominated by a green-black hue recalling computer monitors, while all the cool characters get to wear shades and long black leather trench coats to emphasize their extreme bad ass factors. Keanu Reeves grows into the role of Neo, his passive expressions ideally suited to the first half of the film as Thomas is awakened to a new reality. Laurence Fishburne creates the mountainous presence at the centre of the rebellion, while Carrie-Anne Moss discovers her career calling as the enigmatic Trinity.

A hyperkinetic treat for the mind and the eyes, The Matrix is a sublime triumph.

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