Nowadays, it is a rare thing for a sci-fi film to be justifiably termed groundbreaking. But it’s an apt word to describe The Matrix, an action thriller directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. The sequels, entitled The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, amped up the action and ultimately bookended the story satisfactorily. However, this wonderful mash-up of style and substance, combined with the surprise factor of something never before seen, is not easily eclipsed. The Matrix is one of those films that could happily have remained a standalone piece as opposed to part of a trilogy. Take the red pill to discover why it is worthy of our film flashback treatment. Or just keep reading.
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The story follows Thomas ‘Neo’ Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a hacker “guilty of every computer crime we have a law for”. Unbeknownst to him, he is living in a dream world, along with the vast majority of humanity. That all changes when rebel General Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) liberates Neo and shows him the truth: that machines now rule the world, imprisoning humanity in a virtual reality matrix whilst feeding off their energies. Not only that, but Morpheus believes Neo to be ‘The One’, an almost messianic-like figure whom it is foretold will destroy the Matrix and free humanity. To quote one character, “What do you say to something like that?”
Yin & Yang’s Lucy Basaba: “I think at first I didn’t really understand it, watched it a few years later and appreciated how different it was for the time”.
As sci-fi premises go, you’ll be hard pressed to find one more fascinating or satisfying. The narrative is well-paced and easy for anyone to follow, but for those willing to concentrate, there are many great payoffs. The thought-provoking concepts of choice and what is real are enthralling, whilst the clear Christian influences at work were no doubt the basis of much debate.
Upon re-watching The Matrix, it was no surprise to find that the action is just as impressive now as it was when the Wachowskis first debuted the ground-breaking ‘bullet-time’ photography. There’s not just one standout action set-piece; an intense lobby shootout and a hard-hitting kung fu encounter on a subway platform are just two of many flawlessly realised action sequences, all set to a funky underground soundtrack.
Yin & Yang’s Annabel Bann: “Keanu Reeves. That is all”.
The acting across the board is magnificent. Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as Neo, a confused Superman desperately trying to understand what he is meant to do. Laurence Fishburne is immense as Morpheus, making the normally drab task of exposition as compelling as the action. Also brilliant is Carrie-Anne Moss, who is sexy and strong as Trinity. Hugo Weaving arguably has the most fun as the incomparable Agent Smith, using the perfect combination of menace and wit. In a role that could easily have been forgotten in a lesser actor’s hands, Smith deserves his place on any ‘greatest villains’ list, and that is a testament to Weaving’s performance.
“Any Last Words?” Incredible action, a compelling story and impressive acting make The Matrix one of the finest sci-fi films you’ll ever see. For those who haven’t yet had their minds freed, try as I might, “No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself”.
Best Scene: As always, there are so many to choose from! I’ll go with the lobby shootout sequence:
Honourable mention must go to the very first fight between Agent Smith and Neo:
Best Line: A lot of great one-liners in this one – particularly from Agent Smith – but the delivery and the moment make Morpheus’ “He is the One!” the standout:
Did You Know? Will Smith turned down the role of ‘The One’ before it was offered to Keanu Reeves. Would he have made a good Neo? We’ll never know…