Keanu Reeves as NeoThe Matrix (1999)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Gloria Foster.
Written and directed by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski.

Grade: A

We are of the opinion that The Matrix is best seen with as little prior knowledge as possible. Our rating for The Matrix is an A. It is particularly recommended to fans of action, science-fiction, kung fu, or special effects. If you want to see the movie to its best advantage, go see it and come back to see if you agree with our review and analysis. The review is intended for people who would prefer to read something about The Matrix before seeing it and don't mind a few minor spoilers. The analysis is only for people who have already seen The Matrix.

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

Carrie-Anne Moss as TrinityHave you ever felt that there's something not right in the world? That is the question put to Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves). Something is indeed peculiar. You know it from the moment a leather-clad Carrie-Anne Moss leaps to an impossible height and defies gravity for a moment too long before executing a perfect flying kick in the face of the cop trying to apprehend her. You've felt it your entire life. Anderson, better known by his handle "Neo," has always felt shut off from the world around him, leading the life of a corporate software programmer by day and an expert hacker by night, who knows more about living inside the world of computers than outside it. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind. Neo is intrigued by a mysterious question, a question that surfaces repeatedly among hackers and in on-line chatrooms: "What is The Matrix?" Neo knows that this question is significant--he can feel it instinctively. The truth is out there, Neo. It's looking for you, and it will find you, if you want it to. Neo is drawn to legendary cyber-personality Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and his associate Trinity (Moss), a well-known hacker in her own right, because it seems that they can solve the riddle of The Matrix. Similarly, Morpheus and Trinity take an unusual interest in Neo. But why?

They're watching you. Something happened and they found out about you. When Neo begins receiving anonymous warnings from people who seem to know his every move, his life begins to spiral out of control. "They" are a trio of Special Agents, led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Hugo Weaving as Agent SmithJust as something is not quite right with the world, something is not quite right about them. They dress identically--in black suits, black ties, and sunglasses. They appear to possess a supernatural ability to manipulate their surroundings. Agent Smith's odd-tempoed (and, after a time, hilarious) staccato delivery makes him seem almost inhuman. They're coming for you, Neo, and I'm not sure what they're going to do.

The Matrix is a big budget science-fiction kung-fu action thriller. The special effects are astonishing. Because writers/directors the Wachowski Brothers figure out a way to realize any unthinkable shot, you will see things you've never seen before. The actors are doing their own fighting and their own stunts. And it all looks super-stylish. Hey, when making a movie like this, why not go all the way? Why not dress your stars in tight black leather? Why not have them wear sunglasses indoors? Almost every frame of the movie looks like the panel of a comic book. Laurence Fishburne as MorpheusThe Wachowskis say that their intent was to create a movie that looked like live-action anime (the Japanese cartoons also known as "Japanimation"), complete with the ultra-cool cyperpunk aesthetic and incredible stunts. They have succeeded.

The Wachowskis also steal images shamelessly--and to great effect--from such films as Star Wars, Batman, Men in Black, High Noon, The Terminator, True Lies, North by Northwest, Sleeping Beauty, and the collected works of John Woo. Nobody at Warner Brothers really understood what the Wachowskis were making, but thanks to the brothers' inventive storyboards, Warner Brothers was persuaded to give them a pile of money in order to bring their vision to life. With all the mediocre big-budget "special effects" movies coming out of Hollywood, The Matrix is a reminder of how exhilirating it is when Hollywood hits a home run. The Matrix kicks butt.

Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. Most viewers will be as impressed by the novel cyperpunk premise as they are by the action. Viewers who don't generally care for science-fiction may find that the movie drags a bit as the concept is developed. However, the essence of the story is not difficult to understand. I won't outline the premise here, because, as Morpheus tells Neo, it is better to see The Matrix than to have it explained. So what are you waiting for?

Review © May 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 by Warner Bros.

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