The Matrix (1999) (R)

"The Matrix" is an innovation in both its style and its story. No other movie before and none since have quite managed to bend the viewer's mind with philosophy—"There is no spoon"—and placate the masses with blindingly great action. It's the story of computers and hackers and programs, of angels and demons and it remains almost as inspired as the moment it was released.
The movie begins with Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a computer programmer who goes under the alias "Neo" when he's in the more technically minded spheres, getting a message from his computer telling him to follow the white rabbit down the hole. What ensues is a series of odd clues that lead him to bar where he meets a woman calling herself Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who tells him that his life is in danger. She knows what he's looking for: The Matrix.
Right off the bat, "The Matrix" nails its neonoir style down so firmly that you believe in everything you are seeing. Its crystal cinematography and wonderfully rendered gritty feel have yet to fade.
As Neo starts going about his day, he is interrupted by the presence of phone calls and mysterious agents who seem to want his every compliance. They want to know the identity of a super hacker named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) who holds the key to something vastly important; but what that is, we don't know yet.
"The Matrix" has a great sense of timing if nothing else, letting the viewers stay confused for just the right amount of time before making a clean revelation and restoring some sort of order. But the movie is not without its major problems...more on that later.
After being pursued by what we can only deem as "malignant forces", Neo finds himself in the company of Trinity once more who them takes him to meet the infamous Morpheus who offers him two choices: ignorance or truth.
Should he choose truth, he will never be able to return to his life again and should he choose ignorance, he will never be able to remember the things he has seen.
What ensues because of his choice is a science fiction thriller that has become one of the most influential pieces of film in recent years. "The Matrix" had huge cultural impact and motivated parody after parody, none equalling the blistering success of the original.
Yet the movie, for all its inquisitive philosophies and its great visual effects which still look pristine even today, has some major plot holes that are skated over and discarded carelessly when all it would have taken to fix them was a few moments of clarity. Motivations for characters are entirely subjective and not defined enough and the climax of the story abandons its science fiction groundwork in lieu of a more fairy tale atmosphere.
Still, the film did more for culture than just opening the door for visual effects to become a part of story telling in unique ways. "The Matrix" solidified the "brain in a vat" philosophy and inspired many a nerd to inject crazily unexplained truths and fictions into their new stories. An explosion of science fiction now wanted to capture the intellectual prowess and blockbuster capability of "The Matrix" and not many did. The movie's filming, its score, its look, its visual effects have changed the film world forever and this can be seen in movies from "Inception" to "The Bourne Identity". The Wachowski siblings have always strived to reach the high watermark of "The Matrix" with their followup pieces "V for Vendetta" and then "Cloud Atlas". They have all had the similar thought: dazzling visuals and intense story telling mixed with philosophy; but "The Matrix" stands as their highest achievement and the most lasting work among them.
It's not perfect and I despise certain aspects of it, how it blithely ignores gaping holes; but its entertainment value is too high for any criticism to really do any good.
"The Matrix" is just what you want from a smash hit: smart, sleek, thrilling, and dazzling.

Score: ★★★½

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