At 20 years old, The Matrix is considered a cult classic and, rewatching it on the big screen, it isn’t hard to see why. This film is a masterclass in Science Fiction from the Watchowski Sisters in almost everything from story to score. Keanu Reeves’ natural sense of wonderment is a perfect fit for the out-of-his-depth Neo and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith is a pure joy to behold. Im getting ahead of myself though so lets start with the plot.
Mr Thomas Anderson, also known as Neo, has been found by a man calling himself Morpheus who confronts him with a truth, that his reality is a simulation known as The Matrix designed to power AI Sentinels in the real world. We follow Neo as he trains to be “The One” while trying to survive sentinels in one reality and battling Agent Smith in the other. The attention to detail in both realities is astounding with a gritty apocalyptic Earth in one hand and the too-perfect green hue of The Matrix in the other. This contrast is further displayed through the score and sound effects, using an electronic techno vibe for The Matrix while reality is more dark and suspenseful. The Wachowski sisters have done a beautiful job bringing not just one but two worlds to life.
As for the acting, I don’t think these roles could have been cast better. Morpheus spends 20 minutes being hyped up and once he finally appears he positively oozes respectability His crew is also enjoyable to watch, as is Neo, but to me the star of the show is Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith. Smith is an AI who has become smart enough to wonder why he needs to take orders. This could very well have been overplayed but Weaving plays the character with just the right balance of subtlety and insanity. Trinity, I find, can be a bit of a one-note character, existing only as a love interest for Neo and a right hand woman for Morpheus. When shes given an action scene though, she delivers the goods just as good, if not better than, her male cast members.
The one thing that stands out most to me is the special effects. After 20 years the CG effects hold up better than many other films, even if Agent Smiths body take overs or the bullet time effects are kind of obvious. What is most amazing though is not how well the CGI holds up, because it’s rarely used, its the practical effects. I’m not talking sets or pyrotechnics here, I’m talking about the blue pill/ red pill shot. Given the amount and quality of CGI available it would have been ridiculously easy to do the shot that way but they did it practically. I understand the logistics of how that shot was done but it still blows me away every time I see it.
The Matrix would go on to become a trilogy, with the reviews for each film being poorer than the last but that doesn’t matter here. This film, for all the plot threads it introduces like Zion and The Prophecy, stands just as well on its own. It isn’t perfect of course, its still very much a product of the 90’s, with Trinity often feeling like The Token Woman and the CGI being more noticeable now than it once was. That doesn’t distract from the films enjoyment though which is the mark of a truly great film. There’s a reason its a cult classic, after all.
Until Next Time…