Written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix is one of the few sci-fi films that one can call ground-breaking. Star Wars was the original, and many others have tried, such as Inception and Avatar, with varying success, but The Matrix took audiences by surprise with its brilliantly staged action, religious symbolism, and thought-provoking dystopia. Plus, it’s downright cool, and it knows it’s cool. From Trinity’s opening fight scene to the expertly choreographed kung-fu face-offs to the helicopter rescue, the film has all the action moviegoers could want, but it also featured a number of fascinating themes, such as the validity of “reality.” Combine these elements with slick camera work, impressive CGI, protracted but artful use of slow-motion and bullet-time effects, and a trench-coated cyberpunk mystique, and you’ve got a hit.
Keanu Reeves shed his Bill and Ted persona for a straight-faced, chosen-one role of Neo, and Laurence Fishburne proved surprisingly agile as the mysterious Morpheus. Carrie-Anne Moss found her breakthrough role playing the formidable Trinity, and Joe Pantoliano and especially an intense Hugo Weaving make for excellent villains. Weaving’s deliberate pronunciation of “Mr. Anderson” is distinctly intimidating.
The film’s main drawback, aside from language, is its high body count. Those who die in the Matrix die for good, and a number of innocent people are caught in the crossfire, particularly during the bullet-riddled lobby scene. While these scenes remain admittedly awesome, the deaths of neutral parties by “good” characters diminish the overall fun factor.
The Matrix isn’t completely original: it owes much to anime, such as Akira, and to martial arts films. A few first-person shots with Neo running through an apartment at the end were even reminiscent of the foot chase in the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona. Still, The Matrix is a sci-fi masterpiece that stands much higher than its two sequels. (I may review those someday. Essentially, they continued the breathtaking action of the first film but emphasized pointless exposition and ended on a thoroughly unsatisfying note.) Taken on its own, The Matrix is a provocative thriller that the Wachowskis have yet to match. (We’ll see about their upcoming sci-fi effects extravaganza Jupiter Ascending.)
Best line: (Morpheus, to Neo) “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”Artistry: 10 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: 10 Originality: 9 Watchability: 9 Other (violence, language): -4 TOTAL: 51 out of 60
Next: #110 – To Kill a Mockingbird
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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