A landmark ‘90s sci-fi masterpiece with that rare combo of style and substance—two decades later, it loses none of its sobering philosophical inquiry.
Dir. Lana & Lilly Wachowski
1999 | USA | Action/Sci-Fi | 136 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for sci-fi violence and brief language
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano
Plot: When a beautiful stranger leads computer hacker Neo to a forbidding underworld, he discovers the shocking truth – the life he knows is the elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence.
Awards: Won 4 Oscars – Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects
Distributor: Warner Bros
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existence, Technology, Philosophy
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Mainstream
The ’90s was blessed with two bonafide sci-fi action masterpieces in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and The Matrix.
They had that rare combo of style and substance and remain landmark Hollywood films—T2 for significantly advancing the development of computer visual effects, and The Matrix for its pioneering of the ‘bullet time’ effect that became parodied in countless movies and adverts.
All that aside, both films are terrific and infinitely rewatchable as standalones. Seeing The Matrix again after two decades, what struck me most is that it loses none of its sobering philosophical inquiry that bedazzled—or befuddled—moviegoers at the time.
Now that I’m older, the film is not as immediately thrilling as those first few viewings, though it is still a masterclass in action editing, particularly its perfectly-stitched climax that lasts all of its 25 propulsive minutes.
“Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
A treatise on familiar sci-fi themes such as man versus machine, dystopian futures, and ‘truths’ about the human existence, The Matrix takes these as a commentary of the digital age as the human race careened into the new millennium, increasingly enslaved by the technicity of this new age.
Religious references are made conspicuous, including the Christian idea of the saviour, and the Buddhist philosophy of emptiness, but most of all the film tells us that there are no two ways about living a meaningful life—either we put complete faith in one’s destiny or be bold enough to change it.
Still the finest movie that the Wachowskis had ever made, The Matrix is a wonder of Hollywood filmmaking. It’s hard to believe that this was only their second feature film after Bound (1996).