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The Matrix
1999 - R - 136 Mins.
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Producer: Joel Silver
Written By: The Wachowski Brothers
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano
Review by: John Ulmer
I watched "The Matrix" for the fourth or fifth time last night, and for the fourth or fifth time I wasn't able to fully comprehend its wild success. I understand that it is essentially a good film, with very impressive visual effects, and that it has some underlying themes and metaphors for our current world culture mixed with the kind of stuff people go to the movies for...but I can't bring myself to give it more than 4.5/5 stars. That may be a very good rating, but this is a movie that took me four or five viewings to even learn to really like it. The end seemed quite enthralling this time around, but the beginning of the movie, for me, just lacks a bit of something.

The plot: Our world, as we know it, is a computer simulation called The Matrix. In "the real world," we are all "grown" in long fields where machines of the future look over us and put us into little pods where we are hooked up into the simulation matrix and entertained until our death.

As our minds believe we are in this alternate world, the machines use our bodies for sources of energy. A mysterious man named Morpheus holds up a Duracell battery at one point during the course of the film and states that we are merely another one of these. But the film starts with Neo, a man who lives an alternate life--one of honesty and one of crime. He is an Internet hacker and has been guilty of virtually every known hacker crime.

But Neo feels that the world surrounding him is somehow wrong. He doesn't like the idea of fate because it means that he can't control his own destiny. An so an infamous criminal named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) picks up Neo, hoping that he may be The One, the man whose destiny is to free the minds of everyone living in The Matrix and bring an end to the machines' rule of the real world.

Of course, this won't be easy, as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, who can now be seen in all three "The Lord of the Rings" films) is a computer program loaded into The Matrix--his mission is to stop the uprising and to capture Morpheus and his gang, which also includes Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Cypher (the always enjoyable Joe Pantoliano).

Keanu Reeves may not be able to act, but his character is part of the new generation computer freaks and geeks. Needless to say, he fits the part. Laurence Fishburne ("Apocalypse Now") is good as the mysterious and all-knowing Morpheus. His character's lasting image was a bit tarnished by the film's 2003 sequel, "The Matrix Reloaded," as an element of him was lost when we found out that he isn't quite as respected back in Zion (the land of the free).

But the real stand-outs are Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity--he's the comedic relief, she's a strong leader who falls for Neo. And unlike the Charlies Angels gang, she actually looks as if she could knock out twenty guys and live to tell about it. She's tough, blunt and the ultimate on-screen tom boy.

"The Matrix" currently holds the number 34 spot on the Internet Movie Database's list of the top 250 films ever made. I've certainly seen better films than "The Matrix," and The Wachowski Brothers, who directed the film, seem to have borrowed a lot of past techinques in filming (the bleak look of "Se7en," the metaphorical significances of "Star Wars," etc.). But this last viewing proved to be a lot more fun than previous viewings--perhaps because for once I let my mind make its own decision and avoided it being influcenced by the standing of the film on lists and so on. Expectations were too high when I first saw this film. And they still are. But perhaps a few more viewings will make this movie really grow on me. I sure do hope so.

"The Matrix" is the type of film you should witness without prior expectations.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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