Classic Movie Review: The Matrix (1999)

Posted: March 16, 2014 in Drama
Tags: ,

The Matrix

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) aka Neo is a computer programmer/hacker in 1998.  He gets a cryptic message about following a white rabbit, and he follows a girl to a rave.  At the party he meets a girl named Trinity, (Carrie Anne Moss) who introduces Mr. Anderson to a man named Morpheus.  (Lawrence Fishburne)Neo has been trying to meet Morpheus for at least two years.  When they meet, Morpheus offers Neo a red pill and a blue pill.  The blue pill will allow him to return to his everyday life, the red pill will give Neo the answer to the question he wants to know most.  What is the Matrix?  So which pill does Neo take?

The Matrix is a classic movie because it works on so many levels.  The viewer can see this movie as an adventure, a martial arts movie, a romance, a man’s hallucinatory experience after taking the pill of his choice.  One can even see it as a Christian allegory.  Neo is the chosen one, Morpheus is John the Baptist, searching for the chosen one, the Oracle is a prophet, Cypher is Neo’s betrayer, and Trinity is an important disciple, like Mary Magdalene.   As he believes more in his prophesy, Neo can even do miraculous things.  But if you take the allegory too far, it starts to fall apart.  Jesus was not packing semi-automatic weapons, and Mary Magdalene was not Jesus’ love interest.    Even if you don’t like the religious similarities to the Jesus story, a viewer can enjoy it on any of the other levels mentioned.  It is a quintessential 1990’s movie, full of paranoia about computers, and the increasingly automated world we live in.  It’s like the Net, or for a funny take on IT, Office Space.  The Matrix also borrows some from the Terminator.  There are shortcomings to this movie, it is violent, in the last half hour, the bullets fall like rain, and I think it goes too far in glorifying the gun as an answer to the world’s problems, but movies have been glorifying the gun culture from the beginning, so that won’t change, with or without this movie.  If you abhor violence, this is not the film for you.

The acting is surprisingly good for an action sci-fi flick.  Keanu Reeves is in his element, this is an action movie with a dash of spirituality thrown in.   Lawrence Fishburne has a commanding presence as Morpheus, his voice is reminiscent of James Earl Jones in the Star Wars Series.  Carrie Anne Moss is both action hero bad girl, and love interest, a difficult combination to pull off but she does it flawlessly.  Moss is also in one of my other favorite movies, Memento, so she will always be a favorite actress of mine.  Joe Pantoliano is good as a turncoat, Hugo Weaving is amazing as Agent Smith, the way he says, “Mr Anderson” still sends chills up my spine.  He is also in another of my favorite movies, V for Vendetta.  A great cast makes good material better.

The direction is noteworthy as well.  There are a few scenes where the rain is shot from above and the audience just sees it falling from an interesting angle, there are scenes where staircases look like dizzying thrill rides, and the audience really does feel like it’s falling down the rabbit hole in Alice In Wonderland. There is also a pretty amazing scene with a helicopter.  The early scenes remind me of the Blade runner, the city here is dark, dank and foreboding.

Put all these elements together, a great script, great acting, eye-popping direction, and this is a stupendous film.  It certainly does hold up well 15 years later.   Too bad the sequels were not nearly as well.

The Matrix: No tricks, all treat!

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