The Matrix

dir. andy and larry wachowski
st. keanu reeves, laurence fishburne, hugo weaving, carrie-anne moss
USA 1999 136 mins (Aust & UK) 144 mins(US) rated R
screening everywhere

A Hollywood science fiction film that is good? A Keanu Reeves film that is good? A American film shot in Australia that is good? I cannot believe I say yes to all three of these scenarios in one movie.

The basic premise of the film is that machines have taken over the world and enslaved humanity at the end of the twentieth century. Humans now live in virtual reality (the world we know) while the machines draw energy off them to survive. A group of rebels who have escaped and exist in 'reality' rescue Keanu from his dream like existence to help save the world.

The concept is clearly explained in the movie, and the two different worlds are easily distinguishable from each other. Why some reviewers have stated that the story is confusing and hard to follow I do not understand. Perhaps feasting on a diet of Lethal Weapon movies and Home Improvement style television has stunted their mental development.

I have heard some negative remarks that the middle of the film drags a bit, with too much talking as Laurence Fishburne explains the situation and Keanu adjusts to his new life and role as potential saviour, but I didn?t think so. The film has its believability problems. I found the concept of machines enslaving humanity a bit silly, and would have preferred an alien race to have enslaved Earth 10,000 years ago, so the whole of civilisation is nothing but a 'dream' and the planet is unspoiled. In the film the planet is a polluted, almost unliveable mess and I would prefer to be left in stasis than be revived. The concept of reviving and reeducating 5 billion people was also a little overwhelming, particularly when you see the efforts they go to revive Keanu.

The film is beautiful to look at with great costumes, great effects, and great stunts (courtesy of a Hong Kong stunt team). If you want spectacular action, go to Hong Kong, which is something the Americans are just learning. Another enjoyable aspect of the film are the inreferences. Keanu is trained by downloading information directly into his mind, and some aspects of popular culture (ie motion pictures) seem to be a major reference point in his education. Anyone who has seen a Bruce Lee film should recognise Keanu's mannerisms and moves when he fights. And there is a nice Star Wars homage when the rebels are flying through the underground (think of the Millennium Falcon escaping the Federation). The film seems to be aimed at people with a good knowledge of cinema, or at least the same knowledge as the writers/directors. The movie fans I know that saw the film enjoyed it much more than the nonmovie buffs.

The part of the film I found most enjoyable was Hugo Weaving as the head bad guy. He says he based his persona on fifties newsreaders, and his tone and deadpan expression are truly impressive. I am annoyed that the shorts for the film ignore his efforts, and instead focus on Keanu and Laurence. Hugo has the best lines and he helps makes the film something special. A film definitely worth seeing.

sebastian niemand
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