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The Matrix

Rated R for violence, language
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss & Hugo Weaving

CineSight Rating *** 1/2

"No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." This quote from one of the film's lead characters pretty much sums up THE MATRIX.

It is 1999 and software designer Thomas Anderson (Reeves) leads a secret life. On his own time he is Neo, a hacker with an inch-thick file of cyber-crimes to his credit. He is approached by an alleged group of cyber-terrorists, lead by the mysterious Morpheus (and easily recognized by their long coats, black leather and cool shades).

Morpheus (Fishburne) shows Neo that his whole life up until this point has been a lie. In fact, his whole world is a fabrication - part of an elaborate computer program known as The Matrix. In reality, the year is closer to 2099 and Neo, along with most of humanity, is a slave to machines which have overrun the planet. Humans are grown and kept alive in pods to be used by the machines simply as an energy source: human "coppertops". They are (presumably) being fed the so-called reality of 1999 to keep them subdued.

Morpheus believes that Neo is the One, the only person who can lead the revolution against the machines, free humanity and destroy The Matrix...

You may have seen the action-packed, effects-laden previews for the movie, but don't be fooled. Holding all the amazing visual antics together is a surpisingly detailed story. Sly references to Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" catapult us into the heart of the film, fleshed out with a great deal of pseudo-mysticism (echoes of The Force?), treachery and salvation. There's even a cookie-baking Oracle thrown in for good measure! If you enjoy your paranoia served up with a dark sense of humor, then THE MATRIX is the movie for you.

Reeves pulls off a cool but confused hero: much better than his abysmal attempt in JOHNNY MNEMONIC (RIP). His most impressive performance is in several martial arts sequences, for which he and co-star Carrie-Anne Moss trained intensely.

While I like Lawrence Fishburne in just about any role, his talents are sadly under-used in the role of Morpheus. Although a catalyst for Reeves' heroics, he spends much of his screen time spouting, as plot expositor and mystical guru.

On the other hand, Moss exerts great presence as Neo's rebel cohort, Trinity. It's always exciting to see a self-sufficient female role in an action movie, and Trinity's opening sequence, as she evades the agents of The Matrix, has to be seen to be believed.

Australian actor Hugo Weaving (known to U.S. audiences as the voice of Rex the sheepdog in BABE) rounds out the leads. He plays Agent Smith, the relentless, emotionless, humanoid aspect of The Matrix. With his curt, clipped sentences, earpiece and anonymous black suit, he looks like he walked right off the set of THE X-FILES. I hope we get to see much more of him in the future.

There is so much for your brain to process in THE MATRIX that it bears more than one viewing. Not only am I planning to see it again on the big screen, I may just add it to the DVD collection.