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It's fascinating that 6 and a half years after this film came out, it remains so powerful, so cutting edge and entertaining. Having redefined both the Action and Sci-Fi genres for a whole generation, many films have copied it since then, and nothing much has come onto the scene that could match it.
If you haven't seen this film, then what are you waiting for? This is definitely one of the top classic sci-fi films ever done. If you have seen already, then watch it again. After having been dazzled with the visuals and the mind-bending story, your brain will have more time to see all the rest in this movie, some of the deep philosophy, the cool tricks that are not as flashy as the main special FX sequences, the overall cinematography and adr direction, the costumes and so on. This film is so rich that even after i saw this film 8 times already, the 9th time was almost as good as the first. Most importantly, i keep seeing new details, or gain new insights in the story.
I won't recount the story in this review because you probably know it already, but needless to say that it is richly layered metaphore on the body and soul, with an emphasis on our modern life which is already controlled by so many machines. The film is a dream within a dream that weaves together the mythologies of previous work such as Alice In Wonderland, Plato's perception Vs reality debate and pretty much anything technologically centric coming out of Japan in Anime form throughout the 90's (think Ghost In The Shell (1995)). This is a film that is heavy on philosophy, but with such a sweet coating of eye candy, ground breaking visual sequences (even by today's standards), and martial art combat magic from revered martial art director Woo-ping Yuen. This film is pure popcorm hollywood magic, but with lots of brains too. Think the most beautiful woman in the world with Einstein's IQ.
After having seen this movie so many times though, and in light of the current terror climate we all live in, there is something quite unsettling about the film and how the story is portrayed. Basically, Neo, Morpheus and the entire crew of rebels view human life with little respect and all the people in the Matrix are basically dead as far as they are concerned. They kill anything in their way after having simply dehumanized the entire world in their heads. This is Extremism 101 and shows how we can actually accept this point of view rather quickly. As an audience, we root for the rebels as they are being persecuted by the machines which enslave the entire human race. But the film itself is deeply founded on this aspect of human perception that makes it very hard to often differenciate between reality and dream. Similarely, do you trust your own beliefs? It's easy to be absolute about what you believe, and much harder to question everything all the time. It's also silly to question anything just for the sake of it. How do you take a just middle? Given the state of the world today, strong absolute beliefs and a deep lack of communication is what is plunging all of us into WW3. Just my 2 cents.
This film could completely be interpreted as a view on mentally disturbed extremists where the Matrix is in fact the reality, and Zion is the dream. If you listen to the commentaries on the wonderful 10-disk package which was release last year, or read the many articles about the films, there are many ways one can look at the story, and it's not that obvious that Zion is reality and The Matrix is not. Rather, and the end of the third film confirms it for those who subscribe to this interpretation, the trinity of body, soul and the holy spirit represented here by the "real world", the Matrix, and the machines forms a complete symbiotic reality where no one part can survive without the others.
This is ultimately the lesson from the film to me at least. Beliefs, Actions and Consequences, another trinity in our world, are tightly woven together and ignoring that fact leads to catastrophes. In that context, the machines' unrelentless pursuit of the rebels with gestapo techniques, the rebels absolute belief in salvation for the human race at the cost of their world, and the Matrix's world that serves as a conduit are all three sides of the same coin.
Matrix 1, The (1999) , and to a lesser extent its two sequels Matrix 2, Reloaded, The (2003) and Matrix 3, Revolutions, The (2003) which are far from being as bad as some people would let you believe, delivers some incredible philosophy and a mind-bending story with lots of brains in it. It could have been pompous and boring, but the Wachowski brothers who wrote and directed the film laced it with top action and visuals that makes the film infinitely entertaining too from a pure popcorn point of view.
- Laurent Hasson