24. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Matrix

September 25, 2018

Director: The Wachowskis
Screenplay: The Wachowskis
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano
Runtime: 136 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1999

 

★★★★★

 

The Matrix is one of the most modern blockbusters ever conceived. As far as it laid down a new and sticking aesthetic that for 1999 was a here and now as it was ever going to be.

 

The Wachowskis' first film of the back of Bound, while its storyline does once again borrow heavily from the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey narrative, it acts as a framework for some of the most dizzyingly unique visual filmmaking ever put to film. Drawing from the likes of Anime, Hong Kong action cinema and Videogames, their cyberpunk vision is realised by Bill Pope’s unforgettable cinematography that takes us places unseen and unimagined.

 

Beyond its startling visual and camera effects though, the overall design of the film is slender and cool in an instantly identifiable and memorable way. Same goes for Don Davis aggressively pulsing score.

 

The screenplay is rich with theme and substance regarding philosophy and literary, drawing on ideas concerning reality, perception and illusion in its hero/villain narrative and raising important questions for the audience. Its screenplay is packed with this, yet somehow making long stretches of exposition in the first act feel perfectly natural given the mode of its presentation, while all of its elements make individual sense.

 

Keanu Reeves redefines himself as Neo, carrying the physical baggage well without resorting to emotional instability, that is maintained by Laurence Fishburne’s broken prophet Morpheus and Carrie-Anne Moss’ steely-eyed and undeniably striking Trinity. Hugo Weaving is faultless as the genuinely frightening Agent Smith, a walking metaphor for conformity and free thought, and Joe Pantoliano steals his scenes as the highly motivated and flawed Cypher.

 

It’s really unlike anything else in the genre, and it offers some weighty deliberation and acumen an oversaturated and meathead genre of Hollywood cinema - necessary, entertaining and progressive viewing.

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