The Matrix (1999)
Thought-provoking, inventive, influential, stylish and full of philosophical & religious allegories, The Matrix is a groundbreaking motion picture that not only raised the bar for all the science-fiction films to come after it but also redefined the action genre with its thrilling action sequences & revolutionary visual effects. And it’s the remarkable balance between its in-depth philosophical undertones, stunning action & gripping plot that makes The Matrix an unforgettable experience & breathtaking entertainment of the highest quality. It is the biggest leap science-fiction genre has taken since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and just like those two flicks, this film only gets better with more viewings.
The Matrix tells the story of Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer working for a reputable company who also has a secret life lived in computers where he goes by the hacker alias “Neo”. Although he has always questioned his reality, it isn’t until he is contacted by another legendary hacker alias “Morpheus”, when he learns that the world he believes to exist in is only a simulated reality pulled over his eyes to blind him from the truth. And that he is nothing more than a slave like every other human being in a dystopian world controlled by machines. After being freed from the dream world by Morpheus & his team, Neo joins the rebellion against the machines in bringing freedom to his people and in the process also discovering the purpose & true meaning of his life.
Written & directed by The Wachowskis, it seems as if they took inspirations from every great sci-fi film out there and put it all in a single movie with enough style & substance that everyone ended up devouring it for one reason or another. The research that went into the preparation of its screenplay is extensive but the work done to present it on the big screen is no short of astonishing as well. Cinematography is nailed to perfection with its imaginative use of camera angles placement, vision of the future & also its use of tints to differentiate the two worlds. Thanks to its tight editing, there isn’t a dull moment in this film & it runs at a fierce pace. Visual effects & action film-making is what amazed most people when this film first came out and it has made such a big impact on cinema that almost every action film has made use of its pioneering techniques ever since. The score & songs used in this film are also very impressive and provide the viewers with a heightened sense of emotions & excitement with tracks that seamlessly fit and belong to the world of The Matrix. Excellent work by Don Davis.
Coming to the performances, The Matrix features an ensemble cast of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving & Joe Pantoliano and helped in launching the careers of each one of them. The characters are thoroughly imagined & developed by the Wachowski Bros. and the cast did a terrific job in realising them on-screen. Keanu Reeves stars as Neo & was amazing in displaying his characters’ confusion, reluctance & finally acceptance with great use of body language. Laurence Fishburne gives an even better performance as Morpheus, a mentor to his crew whom he freed from the bondage of the machine world. Carrie-Anne Moss plays Trinity with elegance and Joe Pantoliano was also surprisingly good as Cypher. But the one performance that virtually stole the show was Hugo Weaving’s disciplined rendition of his character, Agent Smith; a powerful computer program made to search & destroy the human rebellion. Rest of the supporting cast also make their mark in small doses & overall, the performances are carried out very nicely.
In spite of the superbly choreographed action sequences and remarkable visual & sound effects, the reason why The Matrix still holds strong against all odds and appeals to viewers around the world is because at its core, there lies an uncommon vision of our day-to-day experiences; a life with no place or purpose, a life where we feel like slaves shackled in chains working for a higher authority, a life full of questions & no answers. The Matrix also shows the same person living the same mundane life, asking the same questions and looking for a way out from this bondage to search for his true identity, except that the whole story at its centre is encapsulated with layers after layers of philosophical & religious mythologies, blended with the digital revolution & pop culture references of the 90s and filmed with enough style & sophistication to propel itself into a league of its own where it’s still waiting to find its equal.
The outer shell of this film is crafted with enough zeal to dazzle its viewers during their first viewing but it only gets better when it begins unraveling its underlying layers that are equally astonishing as well. It’s the question that drives us, and this masterpiece has plenty for all of us. Belonging to the year that changed cinema forever, The Matrix is immortal for its contribution to cinema and, on an overall scale, is an ingenious combination of pioneering visual effects, imaginative vision & stunning action that easily ranks as one of the best & most entertaining films of all time. As Morpheus said, “Unfortunately no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ve to see it for yourself”. And he couldn’t be more right. So forget everything that you know, free your mind, take the red pill without hesitation and you’ll eventually find out just how deep the rabbit hole really goes. Strongly recommended. Multiple viewings advised.