(Guest review by Lawrence Ryan)

STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie Ann-Moss, Hugo Weaving,
Joe Pantoliano, Gloria Foster

1999, 135 Minutes, Directed by: Larry Warchowski, Andy Warchowski

matrix2.jpg (6751 bytes)The Matrix is a very impressive movie on several levels. Hollywood, which has a tendency to produce dumb, formulaic films, has managed to produce a piece of modern cinematic science fiction that is free of the weak science and 'snappy' one-liners that ruined movies like Total Recall. It has managed to produce a movie that is not only visually spectacular, but will also make you think.

The story focuses on Neo, a computer programmer who is convinced that something is not quite right about his world. He can't quite put his finger on the problem, but he can feel that it's there. Neo is played by Keanu Reeves - adequately, I think. Although there is one scene where his delivery of dialogue is noticeably weak (the club scene with Trinity), he seems quite well suited to the role. The other central characters are acted extremely well, with Laurence Fishburne being especially impressive as Morpheus, and Hugo Weaving being remarkably effective as the main software Agent (an example of perfect casting).

matrix1.jpg (11590 bytes)Throughout, the writing is fabulous. The first half of the movie is quite slow in pace, and is mostly expository. It is here that we are exposed to the nightmarish world of The Matrix. This portion of the movie is extremely strong. The ideas and images presented here are truly memorable - science fiction at its strongest and most interesting. Eventually, the Oracle appears. Her character is very important to exploration of the movie's core content - ideas about fate and the nature of reality. Even her existence hints that even reality, the world outside the matrix, may only be a pre-scripted, confined, artificial existence, not unlike the matrix itself. What does this say about the identity of the Oracle? On what level does she exist? Does this mean that the rebellion is in vain, and that Cypher is right: ignorance is bliss? The Oracle's carefully engineered statements (you're going to have to think them over . . . "know yourself") set up future paradoxes and religious symbolism, the conceptual core of the second half of the movie.

And so, the more action-oriented half of the movie kicks off. The detailed fictional world and the solid characters are now put into play to spectacular effect. The Matrix has, no doubt about it, the finest action scenes I have ever seen in any movie. Prepare to be blown away. And don't worry! It's all in there for a reason! Anyone who claims that the movie falls apart at this point is completely wrong. Never does the movie stray away from its target. Paradoxes are revealed, leaving the viewer to decide what to believe, and what to rethink, what to reevaluate and reconsider.

Insert religious symbolism here. Insert a thrilling race to a conclusion that fits perfectly. Then, add an ending which, at first seems happy, but after closer consideration is revealed to be uncertain and worrisome.

The Matrix is the best science fiction film since 1982's Blade Runner. .



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