Director(s): Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss
To preface, as a reader you should know that this review is based on me seeing ‘The Matrix’ for the first time only a few days ago, in June 2015. Be forewarned that this review is not some repressed regurgitation of 16 years of pent up fanboy-ism. I’m not particularly privy to all the conspiracy theories and in-depth, post-trilogy analysis either. There’s a reason I never watched ‘The Matrix’ until now. In no small part, due to the fact that it came out in theaters when I was seven years old, and having pretty respectable parents, they felt it best not to take a pre-pubescent child to a terrifically violent, R-Rated, post-apocalyptic thriller. Can’t blame them, really.
The other half of that equation was that a lot of low-quality films in the “dystopian-world-controlled-by-computers” subgenre a.k.a “Cyberpunk” – like ‘Equilibrium’ or ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ – flooded the market at the turn of the millennium. Frankly, there was too much garbage to sift through, and many better genres to explore. However, ‘The Matrix’ has always been different because a) it had stars and b) it won four Academy Awards – all for editing, obviously. For the pre-CGI age, the special effects work is truly remarkable. It just took me a decade to realise that ‘The Matrix’ was worth a look. But like Trinity’s kill shot, I could no longer “dodge this” movie and I’m glad I finally chose to succumb.
The reason ‘The Matrix’ works lies in some dominant performances by its actors. Keanu Reeves has been involved in some weird projects over the last decade, ‘John Wick’ aside, but at his peak he was a genuinely brilliant actor. Reeves can be so shameless that it sells the indomitable Neo magnificently. Keanu Reeves’ Neo was as important to ‘The Matrix’ as Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker was to ‘Star Wars’; I don’t think either franchise would have worked as perfectly without the star they got. Then there’s Laurence Fishburne as the know-it-all guru, Morpheus. Think black Yoda. Let me tell you: this is the first movie I’ve ever really liked Mr. Fishburne in, and I saw ‘Assault On Precinct 13’. For whatever reason he works extremely well as the sagacious, Jedi master type; maybe he should’ve been cast as Mace Windu. Nonetheless, the actor who steals the show, in my opinion, was the clever Hugo Weaving as the malevolent Agent Smith, out to destroy Neo and his Zion-saving comrades. Weaving’s persona vacillates stoically from some sort of ultimate warrior to psychotic terrorist and back throughout, which is truly magnificent cinema. He looked a long way off from Elrond, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, that’s fine; just know Weaving kicks ass in ‘The Matrix’.
Like fine wine, some things in life are greater appreciated the longer you have to wait to enjoy them. That’s ‘The Matrix’ for me. I’m glad I didn’t see it at age seven, or even in my teenage years. I’m glad I waited until I became an aspiring movie critic who sincerely appreciates the full aesthetic of film, because I never wanted to cheapen seeing what is generally considered an iconic, top 100 film. ‘The Matrix’ held a lot of strong aspects of great film-making together, despite taking some huge risks. It laid out a highly complex plot, that took a lot of time to explain, but nailed it. It used previously unseen special effects, but that worked too. ‘The Matrix’ bent some of the rules of film during a time that was less exploratory than today, and got away with it. To a degree, what made ‘The Matrix’ so iconic was that it dared to be different, and as I’ve come to learn these last few years, different is good. So, if like me you find yourself in 2015 and you still haven’t seen ‘The Matrix’, just watch it. And be prepared to see guns, lots of guns. You can thank me later.