MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action/ Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Anthony Ray Parker, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Gloria Foster, Belinda McClory, Paul Goddard, Robert Taylor, Ada Nicodemou/Runtime: 136 minutes
I think it is safe to start this review off by asking a question that ever since the long gone year of 1999 has been one that has intrigued movie goers. That question, of course, is just what exactly is the Matrix? Yet whilst that question is one that I cannot answer for you what I can tell you is that although there have been iconic slices of sci-fi cinema both before and after this film and yes it has been constantly parodied, I still feel that there is still no denying how awesome this slice of cinema still is to this day. Indeed one of cinema’s finest examples of just straight up cool, this iconic sci-fi film is one that proves to be an intriguing blend of a religious messiah narrative, martial arts fight sequences, and a significant degree of manga influence particularly in regards to the iconic manga that is Ghost in the Shell as it regales us with a delightfully unique twist on the narrative trope of humanity being enslaved in a post apocalypse world much in the same vein as something like Terminator only if you ratchet it up by a scale factor of at least 10. Thus I think it’s fairly safe to say that this slice of cinema is one that you definitely need to see for yourself. Indeed armed with a phenomenal cast, special effects work that proved to be next-level (and still hold up incredibly well), a distinct narrative, and incredible martial arts sequences that would make Bruce Lee proud, this slice of cinema is not only an iconic film period, but also a slice of cinema that’s level of impact is still being felt to this very day.
The plot is as follows: The Matrix takes us to an alternate 1999 where we are introduced to our hero, a young man by the name of Thomas Anderson. Indeed here is a young man who is an extremely gifted computer programmer, but who also has a secret. That being that Anderson also happens to be an infamous and extremely talented computer hacker going by the name of Neo. Yet when our story opens we see that Neo has been having issues here lately. This is because our intrepid hero is day in and day out finding himself stricken with an existential crisis of sorts due to being completely and utterly unable to distinguish at times between what is real and what may just in fact be the product of his imagination. However we soon see things start to change for our hero when he finds himself enigmatically reached out to by a seemingly nefarious yet legendary terrorist of sorts by the name of Morpheus. A contact that soon sees Neo going down the rabbit hole so to speak with the aid of one of Morpheus’ followers, a woman named Trinity, to figure out the secret of something known as The Matrix. What he discovers will not only change his world forever, but soon see him engaged in a fight with no more and no less than the very future of mankind hanging in the balance.
Now right off the bat it should be said that the action beats and the stunt work that is found in this distinct slice of cinema are truly no more and no less than downright incredible. Indeed choosing to put a wonderful emphasis on intricately designed martial arts combat sequences that are placed in all kinds of odd yet also fairly remarkable locales with components of what is known as wire fu that would prove to be a delightful foreshadowing of the equally as skilled work done in the brilliant martial arts slice of cinema Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from 2000, nail-biting stunt work done with helicopters including a jaw-dropping singular moment where bullets are ejected from a freaking Gatling gun at such a high rate of frequency and speed that the used shells fall as if they are rain drops that are made from metal rather than the usual ingredients of H20, and final act throw downs in the decaying landscape of a highly post-apocalyptic future where a group of people are engaged in battle against a group of…..well you’ll just have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say that, in case everything I mentioned already didn’t make it clear, this is one slice of cinema that should really recharge your faith and power of belief in what can be done with the genre mix of sci-fi action. Even with that in mind though, I also feel it should be said that much in the same way that this slice of cinema is able to completely update and/or improve on prior made sci-fi slices of cinema that also deal with the concepts of persecution and uprising complete with a brilliant blend of firing on all cylinders firearms and slo-mo fisticuff combat sequences, this slice of cinema also wonderfully does not forget to regale audiences with a, by and large, understandable story revolving around both the ideas of atonement as well as fate that is then further added on to courtesy of a highly believable and quite emotional love story that shows up at just the right moments without ever once really feeling all that shoehorned in thankfully. Suffice it to say that, much in the same vein as the riveting cast of characters that exist in the astonishing world of this slice of cinema, the costumes that these characters all wear, the way that the sets are all designed, the general look of the film which is an appropriate mix of equal parts bleak and gloomy, the top-notch sound effects work, and the constantly fantastic work done by the editing department all come together in a perfect story to give us a slice of cinema that not only distinguished it as a new top-notch entry in both riveting action and bleak as heck sci-fi, but also is, no matter if it’s your first time or your 51st time watching it, consistently engaging and entertaining from beginning to end.
Now the other big component that this slice of cinema is blessed with would have to be the phenomenally talented cast that has been brought together to bring this truly riveting slice of cinema to life. This starts with the, by now, legendary work done in this by Keanu Reeves in the lead role of Thomas Anderson/Neo and he is straight up terrific not just in the action beats involving his character that are genuinely thrilling, but also in the more low-key moments like particular noteworthy dialogue exchanges with Fishburne. Yes I know that Reeves at times hasn’t been the “best actor” out there to a lot of people, but this character is (alongside John Wick, Ted from Bill and Ted, Duke Kaboom from Toy Story 4, and Jack Traven from Speed) easily one of the best that Reeves has ever played and I’m definitely excited to see where Matrix Resurrections takes him for reasons I shan’t say here. I also feel that Carrie-Anne Moss does good work in this in the role of Trinity. Indeed she might not win any awards for some of the dialogue her character has to work with at times, but what she lacks in that department Moss easily makes up for it not only through her incredible stunt work and a love story with Neo that is honestly fairly well done and thankfully doesn’t completely take over the rest of the film much in the way it might in a lesser slice of cinema. Also turning in one heck of a performance would have to be the always aces whenever he shows up in a slice of cinema Laurence Fishburne as Neo’s guide through the rabbit hole so to speak Morpheus. Indeed Fishburne, in that way that Fishburne and maybe only a handful of other actors could pull off, proves to be an excellent mix of wise old sage and yet also freaking awesome warrior when the situation calls for it and he manages to give a wonderful performance that, in many respects, is just as iconic as the one provided by Reeves. I also enjoyed in the group of heroes the equally slimy and jerkish performance given by Joe Pantoliano in the role of Cypher even if you might be able to predict just where in the world his arc is going to go in regards to the overall narrative. Ultimately however, if there is one performance that a lot of people still talk about that is NOT to be found amongst the group of heroes, it would easily have to be the one given by Hugo Weaving in the role of Agent Smith aka the head of the enigmatic yet menacing men in black who are consistently making life a headache at best for our group of heroes. Indeed Weaving portrays this guy as if he were just your typical monotone government agent who literally has no patience when it comes to dealing with people any longer than he has to. I mean this guy is easily one of the more chilling villains of the past 3 decades not only because of his subtly threating manner, but for how he is able to reinforce these threats by being able to give one heck of a beat down or dodging a bullet or 10 if the mission calls for it. Suffice it to say that no matter how big or small their respective role in this slice of cinema may be, every single actor in this not only manages to do a phenomenal job, but are all honestly perfectly cast in this as well.
All in all I think it can quite easily be said that from beginning to end this is one slice of cinema that is trippy in the best way possible, breathtaking in how incredible the film looks be it everything from costume design to the jaw-dropping fight sequences, phenomenally brought to life by a cast that is all perfect in their respective roles, and is also just plain and simply one slice of cinema that I can assure you that you will have no qualms whatsoever about watching more than just once. Yet more than that however, the subtleties and nuances of this slice of cinema are so stylish, so complex, and so unique and distinct that our hero’s, and through him all of us’, first steps into this vast world all but opened the door for more stories to be told in this world. A continuation that fans across the planet would acquire in no less than a trinity (see what I did there?) of sequels consisting of The Matrix Reloaded, Revolutions, and the upcoming Resurrections from 2003 and 2021 respectively with more possibly on the way, comic books and graphic novels, video games (including one on the PS2 back in the day that I recall wasn’t half bad), other assorted merchandise, and a beautiful animated short film compilation also from ’03 known as The Animatrix which I hear is worth a watch or 2. Thus you can either choose to just watch this slice of cinema and be done with it or if you would like there are ways for you to stay in this truly iconic wonderland for a while longer and in so doing really get the chance to see just how far down the ol’ rabbit hole actually goes. The choice, as the wise Morpheus would say, is completely up to you. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Matrix “99” a solid 4.5 out of 5.