Classic Intel: The Matrix - Blu-ray Review

'Andy and Lana Wachowski's film hums with new poetry placed around a familiar trope'

The Matrix is considered by IMDb users to be the eighteenth best film of all time, the fourth best Science-Fiction film ever and the ninth best Action movie. Other lists such as Empire's 500 films and Halliwell's Top 1000 feature it prominently. Yet The Matrix somehow feels like a film constantly under threat from naysayers. The sequels hang heavy over it, the 'but' on everyone's lips when discussion starts. The fact that, arguably, each and every cast member puts in a career best performance doesn't help those who somehow feel that the wool has been pulled over their eyes, that those who value the film highly are living in a dream world.

Returning to the film thirteen years after its release, it is difficult to give these arguments much credence. The Matrix is an incredible achievement. A rich, densely-plotted Sci-Fi, full of both ideas and kinetic, massively influential, action choreography. Andy and Lana Wachowski's film hums with new poetry placed around a familiar trope (AI has taken over the world), whilst visually the film mixes perfect effects with much more traditional cinematic mastery of the lens.

The non-CGI related look of The Matrix remains under-appreciated and one of the film's biggest successes. As its colour barcode will show you, everything which takes place in The Matrix does so with a green hue, Thomas Anderson's (Keanu Reeves) 'everyday' life linked inexplicably to the green lines of computer code dotted throughout the film. More than that, the world we see in these scenes never resembles our world enough to be recognisably normal. The closest it gets is Anderson's office, so stereotypically uniform, so perfectly every day, with its grey partition walls, that it feels like a fabrication. Everything we see in the early part of Anderson's life is designed specifically to look like a construct.

The perfect arc of the script too, penned by The Wachowskis, also fails to receive enough credit. Its main success is in the perfect mix of high ideas Science-Fiction and low-level yet thrilling Action cinema. In one scene, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) lays out the allegory of the plot (basically a retelling of the resurrection of Jesus Christ). The very next scene is the training montage, arguably one of the film's better action sequences. The end becomes all action, all the time but until that point these dichotomies continue; a crackling scene of gentle intelligence featuring The Oracle (the late, wonderful, Gloria Foster) and Neo (Reeves) discussing the nature of fatalism is followed by the assault on the derelict house, Cypher's (Joe Pantoliano) betrayal and a whole load of guns. Neo's journey, literally from drone to Messiah, is well-realised, well-executed and, in the context of The Matrix's world, perfectly believable.

Did The Matrix need two sequels? Almost certainly not. But, whatever you think of them, do they lessen the first film's achievements? No. In thirteen years, the only Science-Fiction film to come close to this has been Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Children Of Men, another aspirational piece which blends action, dense plotting, innovative camera work and recognisably perfect character arcs. Films like this don't come around very often. Not in the real world.

1 comment:

  1. It's unfortunate that people feel the need to chip away at films as they age. The Matrix was and is an excellent film, very little that happens after it came can take away from it.

    Reminds of how people seemed to reassess the Spider-Man films after the latest one which left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Film culture seems to be becoming aggressively revisionist.

    Anyhoo I've not watch this film in some time and I quite like the sequels (Reloaded has excellent action) which expand and definitively end certain characters stories. Sometimes I think the reception to them is partly because they're not as good as the original and the Wachowski's efforts in taking the story to a unexpected place. The rave scene is still silly :)