This is basically the idea of The Matrix, an ultra-computerized
sci-fi film by Andy and Larry Wachowski that has an excellent concept but
squanders it by falling back on the same old tired action movie conventions.
The Wachowski brothers (Assassins, Bound) have given us an
hour's worth of excellent cinema, filled with fascinating ideas and effects
reminiscent of Alien or Terry Gilliam's incredible 12 Monkeys.
But then they welch on their promise of an intelligent science fiction thriller
by filling up the movie's second half with the same bullet-whizzing we see
every day (with a few interesting visuals thrown in to keep us awake). What's
more, Keanu Reeves disappoints once again with a flat performance in the
leading role. Luckily, we have an excellent supporting performance by Laurence
Fishburne, and a few other gems in the rubble.
We start with a woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who seems to
be on the run from a gang of Men In Black-types led by Agent Smith (Hugo
Weaving). Luckily, she can leap tall buildings in a single bound, run around
on the walls, and so on. So she gets away, but not before contacting a computer
hacker named Neo (Reeves) by sending him a cryptic message on his monitor.
Following her directions, Neo meets up with Morpheus (Fishburne), who is
in charge of a ragtag team of humans from the late 22nd century.
After an extremely rude series of awakenings, Morpheus tells Neo about
all the "us against computers" deal. The whole 20th-c. life that
Neo had grown accustomed to is fake; it's really almost 2200 a.d., and the
few remaining "real" humans are in a life-and-death struggle with
the cyborgs. And why did Morpheus seek out Neo and bring him up to speed?
Because Neo is The One; he's the messiah. He's going to save us all.
Better put your heads between your legs, folks.
The imagery in the first hour of The Matrix is astounding. References
to Alice in Wonderland are combined with industrial futureshock and
spectacular matte paintings (or their computerized counterparts). The exposition
is solid, and there is a Kung Fu sequence between Morpheus and Neo, a sort
of Luke/Yoda thing, that will definitely impress. Fishburne's cool detatchment
and precise elocution gives him an aura of mystery, and another excellent
(but short) performance is given by Gloria Foster as "The Oracle,"
a sort of all-knowing, all-seeing grandmother who explains Neo's destiny
to him while whipping up a batch of her dynamite oatmeal cookies.
But soon it all degenerates into conventional armed combat, including an interminable scene in a train station lobby, where everything and everybody gets blown to smithereens. Never mind I'll just go on living in my little deluded paradise. As long as the steak is juicy and the beer is cold, I don't mind if it's all make-believe. ***½
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