13. The Matrix, directed by
Lana & Lilly Wachowski

13. The Matrix, directed by
Lana & Lilly Wachowski

“I Know Kung Fu!”


Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) drifts through his life, publically as a corporate worker, and secretly hunched over his computer as the hacker Neo. He exists with a nagging, desperate feeling that something isn’t right. This can’t be all there is. He is correct, as he finds out when confronted by a group of freedom fighters, headed by the sphinx-like Morpheus. And damn, is he one cool dude. Not many people can get away with wearing a full-length leather coat and mirrored sunglasses that have no arms but still sit snugly over his eyes… On this cool-dude note, all of the freedom fighters are major bad-asses, including Trinity, whose slick, short hair and skin-tight shiny black suit are the icing on her hardcore, gun-wielding cake.

Like a velvet-voiced Messiah, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) unveils the truth of their reality: Life as we know it is one massively constructed lie. The world Thomas sees, hears and engages with is, in fact, a virtual reality. At this very moment, Morpheus explains, Thomas is asleep. In ‘the real world’, the machines, which we have come to depend on, are dominating humanity. Our own arrogant belief in our intelligence has ultimately led to a universe teetering on complete destruction.

Following a war that saw the sky scorched and humans fleeing like rodents under the earth’s crust, the struggle between the machines and humans continues in a more clandestine manner. Meanwhile, as fuel for the machines, human bodies are being harvested for body heat, where they exist in pods and live internally in the virtual reality Neo has, until now, called life. Morpheus calls it the Matrix. Now it is time for Neo to be pulled from the Matrix and join the fight against the machines. It is time for his awakening.

And to call it a “rude awakening” would be something of an understatement. (Warner Bros)

It is rare to find films that are so intensely sci-fi and dystopian, but also so airtight and goddamn clever. And entertaining. The Wachowskis shrewdly build off the idea of virtual reality and the old ‘waking up and it was all a dream’ cliche in such a way as to make us question our own realities. By swapping virtual reality and the real world, we begin to interrogate what reality really is. More so, these themes and questions only become more relevant over time as our reliance on machines and technology continues to grow.

Tying with the dystopian, gritty themes, the film is aggressively dark and graphic. Information can be gathered from every aesthetic detail, such as the contrasting realities tinged with opposing hues. In the real world, the visuals are tinted with blue, while in the Matrix, the scenes are subtlety tinged with green, symbolically reflective of its synthetic, computer coding.

It’s not real, but it is real fuckin’ cool. (Warner Bros)

Lana & Lilly Wachowski are fiercely intelligent and imaginative writer/directors, with an astonishing film knowledge that informs every aspect of their work. Winning an Oscar for Visual Effects and leading the way for many filmmakers to follow, the Wachowskis defined a new era of film aesthetic, and pushed the boundaries of what was possible on screen. One revolutionary camera technique, an idea never imagined before, was the famed “Bullet Time”. This filmic and conceptual effect slows time for just a moment, revolving three hundred and sixty degrees to take in every surrounding detail. Thus, the audience acknowledges the fact that these characters are, in that moment, within a virtual reality. On another level, the conceit is also self-referential, and as the viewer we further recognise that here in the cinema, we are in our own matrix.

Another new idea explored in the film is taking real martial arts into a western setting. Unlike movies of the past, which cut between the actor and stuntman, here every stunt is actually performed. There is such a breathtaking authenticity to the execution and choreography that the viewer becomes more involved in the action and story. Literally packed full of iconic moments, the Wachowskis were the undoubtable trailblazers who popularised the genre of action science-fiction, or even helped define it. The Matrix is everything a movie should be, and since its release there have been many copycats, both aesthetically and plot-wise. But no one has ever come close to achieving that glorious combination that is all together kick-ass, thrilling and philosophical.

For those die-hard Matrix fans, there are layers upon layers of detail we could get swept up in… Lord, we haven’t even mentioned the Oracle or the Agents! But the rest is now up to you to revisit or to discover. How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

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