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 fight sequences & revolutionary visual effects. But 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 the genre of sci-fi has taken since Stanley Kubrick put the science in science-fiction with his magnificent 2001: A Space Odyssey. And just like that 1968 irrefutable classic, 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 that exists around him is only a simulated reality pulled over his eyes to blind him from the truth; That he is nothing more than a slave like every other human in a dystopian world controlled by the machines. After being freed from the dream world by Morpheus & his team, Neo joins the rebellion against the machines in order to bring freedom to his people and in the process discovers 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 together in a single film with enough style & substance that everyone ended up devouring it for one reason or another. The research that went into its preparation of its screenplay is extensive but the work done to present it on the big screen is nothing short of astonishing either. Cinematography is inventive in its use of camera angles, placements, vision of the future, and also utilises separate tints to differentiate the two worlds. Thanks to the tight editing, there isn’t a single dull moment in this film and it runs at a fierce pace. Visual effects & action filmmaking is what amazed most people when this film first came out and it had such a big impact on the genre that almost every action film since has made use of its pioneering techniques in one way or another. The score & songs used in this film are also quite 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 Wachowskis and the cast does a terrific job in realising them on-screen. Reeves stars as Neo and is brilliant in articulating his character’s confusion, reluctance & finally acceptance with terrific use of body language. Fishburne delivers 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 with finesse, leaving behind nothing to complain.
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 allegories, 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 an equal.
The outer shell of this film is crafted with enough zeal to dazzle the viewers during their first viewing but the experience only gets better when it begins to unravel its underlying layers on subsequent revisits. It is 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 greatest & 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 will eventually find out just how deep the rabbit hole really goes. Strongly recommended. Multiple viewings advised.