The Matrix (1999)    2 Stars

“Believe the unbelievable”


The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix (1999)

Director: the Wachowski Brothers

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Synopsis: A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

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The Matrix is one of those movies whose revered status looks increasingly shaky with the passing of time and repeated viewing. All those whistles and bells, they distracted us first time around, made us overlook the flaws and the film’s driving ambition to appear as cool as it possibly could. It’s the kind of movie which attracts that breed of fervent fan who, when asked to explain what they find so great about it come back with such concise and insightful comments as ’it rocks,’ or ’it’s awesome.’ When you point out that one character is brought back from the dead by his soon-to-be girlfriend snogging his corpse, and that another character survives practically unscathed a zapping that kills his brother instantaneously simply so that the makers can insert yet another ’saved in the nick of time’ moment, those fanboys gaze upon you with contempt but can say nothing in defence of the movie.

The movie offers a strange kind of comfort to those who feel imprisoned by the dull routine of their lives. Reality is really one giant computer program, providing us with a believable fiction to preoccupy us as it harvests our submerged bodies for energy in an apocalyptic world far different from the reality we‘re spoon-fed. Truth be told, I sort of understand why Cypher (Joe Pantoliano – Midnight Run) wants to return to his dream world. Sometimes the price of freedom is just too high…

Keanu Reeves (Dracula, Chain Reaction) is Mr. Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, a.k.a the one. Or, more accurately, The One – capital T, capital O. Through a go-between called Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Neo is contacted by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), leader of a small band of rebels who hide in the real world as they plot to bring down the imaginary one known as the matrix. These rebels are pursued by homogenous agents who wear Marks & Spencer suits and shades. Neo agrees to join this band and is rescued from the matrix. Morpheus believes Neo is the one – sorry, The One – who will lead them to victory over the machines that operate the matrix, but the Oracle (Gloria Foster) tells Neo that Morpheus is wrong.

The Matrix is filled with references to Alice in Wonderland in its early stages which, given the nature of Neo’s journey from an ordinary world to a fantastic one, is understandable, if a little forced. But this analogy is swiftly dropped once Neo is immersed in the real world and conscious interaction with the Matrix, in favour of his comparison to Jesus – a saviour who is resurrected. There can’t be many characters in movie history based on both a young girl and a deity’s offspring which at least makes The Matrix unique, but this sudden switch from one source of inspiration to another puts one in mind of an excitable kid carelessly discarding an old toy for a new one.

The Matrix does deliver some blistering action set-pieces, including a spectacular sequence in a helicopter flying low over Sydney’s skyline but, overall, the suspicion is that the writers are writing themselves into a corner from which they’ll be unable to convincingly free themselves – it’s a suspicion that was proved to be correct by the increasingly weak and unconvincing sequels that followed.

(Reviewed 3rd October 2012)

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