Imagine a world that you think is real but it is not. It is a construct of a giant computer complex and you are living in a sleep-like state in a virtual world. This is the premise of the Matrix. The year is around 2199 and the computers and machines he created have all but defeated mankind. In a vain attempt to deprive the machines of solar power man has destroyed the atmosphere. To maintain control of man and to provide a continuous source of power the machines have imprisoned mankind in vats of liquid using their bioengery. These humans are kept in a dream-like state called the matrix. Some have broken free and hope for the One that will be able to free all mankind. After many years of searching they think they have found him. This film borrows heavily from many Sci-Fi greats, Dark City, Tron, Terminator and other man vs. machine tales. It also takes liberal license with Alice in Wonderland and even the Bible. The Biblical undertones are present everywhere, in the names used and some of the settings for the scenes. Not a great plot but after all this is a Keanu Reeves movie not Shakespeare.
Keanu Reeves is Tom Anderson, a computer programmer that moonlights a the hacker called Neo (anagram of One!) A beautiful woman, Trinity, played by very buff Carrie-Anne Moss approaches him. She helps in out after some mysterious men in dark suits and dark sunglasses (day and night) arrest Tom and take him in for interrogation. During this time they seem to make Toms mouth disappear and inject a real bug (you got to see it to believe it). Trinity rescues Tom, now called Neo, to take him to their leader, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Morpheus tells Neo the truth and recruits him into their band of freedom fighters. They begin to train him in a series of scenes that look like a very advanced video game. He is taken to the Oracle, the only one that can pronounce him to be the One. To do this Morpheus must take the team back into the Matrix where one of them shows his traitorous ways. Most of the team in reality and in the Matrix are killed and Morpheus is taken captive by the agents, self-aware programs that are part of the master computers that have enslaved mankind. The rescue mission is perhaps one of the best special effects sequences ever filmed. The action is non-stop, the visual and sound effects novel and shows great imagination.
Now, as to the actors. Reeves pulls this off very well. He is believable as Neo and does bring a passable humanity to the role. Fishburne is definitely slumming in this flick. His acting talents are wasted with dialogue that is predicable and which shows little imagination. The two lines of his that sticks out in my mind are "I can only show you the door, you must go through it" and "There is a difference between knowing the road and following it". If you have seen the movies Ive mentioned above the rest of the dialogue will be very familiar. Moss looks great in tight black patent leather. A bit reminiscent of Emma Peel from the sixties Avengers. Great martial arts, great look and a strong female lead. The other characters seem to fill in the gaps in the action and with the exception of Joe Pantoliano do little to further the story. The direction is fast pace and holds your interest. Larry & Andy Wachowski work hard at keeping the story moving and do succeed very well. They are a brothers director team that do like to take risks in their movies. Case in point their last movie Bound which raised many an eyebrow. Add to this the fact that this film took away all of the 1999 Oscars for special effects and you have a winner.
Now for the real star of this disc, the DVD itself. Warner Brothers is rapidly become a rival to New Line Cinema in producing the best DVDs on the market. There are so many extras it will take you several days to fully explore them all. First there is a making of featurette that introduces the viewer into the complex world of computer generated effects. Then there are the commentaries. The first is Carrie-Anne Moss, FX head John Gatea and editor Zach Staenberg. Gatae is in the left channel, Moss in the middle and Staenberg in the right. The discussion is lively and insightful. Next there is a music only soundtrack with comments by the composer Don Davis. This commentary was much better than I thought it would be. Next, there is a hidden feature (click on the bullet in the added features menu) which shows how they did the bullet time effect, one where the bullet zips past the actor as she ducks it. Lastly, there is the White Rabbit mode. In this special mode you see a little white rabbit in the corner of the screen. When you select it you see the behind the scenes view of how the effect was achieved. The video transfer is flawless. The sound, oh the sound. Make sure you have a good set of speakers since all six channels will blast you with discrete tracks that will blow you away. Invite your neighbors over to watch this with you since they will be hearing it in their homes anyway! This is a disc to show off your system. I didnt think I would like this movie but it is becoming a favorite. In fact, it is probably better to see this movie at home via DVD than in the theater.