The Matrix a thrilling mix of action, effects

I can think of a thousand cliched adjectives and phrases to describe Andy and Larry Wachowski’s new movie, The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves (of Bill and Ted fame). However, I think I’ll keep it simple and just say “Wow.” I have not had so much fun at the movies for a long time. Just when it seemed the days of special effects and action packed, popcorn movies were over (think of failures like Godzilla), The Matrix comes along and proves some people can still do it right.

The Wachowski brothers keep the plot simple enough for anyone to understand, yet it still has plenty of twists and turns to keep one interested through the full two hours and twenty minutes. The plot goes something like this: A computer hacker who goes by the name of Neo (Reeves) is aware of some weird things have been happening to him. Strange FBI-like agents show up at his workplace looking for him and he receives cryptic messages from someone named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). When Neo meets with Morpheus he decides he wants to know the truth about the world, whatever it may be.

As it turns out, Neo’s life – and everyone else’s – is not what it seems. They are all, in fact, living inside a virtual reality environment created by computers. In the meantime their real bodies are trapped inside a hive formation and harvested for energy. Neo is awoken from this parallel world and joins a group of rebels who have been taken out of the “matrix” as well. According to Morpheus, Neo is “The One” who will end the tyranny of the matrix created by computers and free the human race. Morpheus shows him how to be a “superman” of sorts within the matrix, after which they proceed to go in and do some damage.

Anyone who has seen trailers or commercials for this movie knows the special effects and action sequences are mind-boggling. The actors went through over three months of martial arts training to prepare for the fighting scenes in this movie, and it shows. There was extensive use of the special effect first used in those wonderful Gap swing ads, in which people stop in mid air and the camera pans around them in real time. It was, of course, greatly improved for this movie, a logical effect to use in scenes showing Keanu doing such amazing stunts as dodging bullets and walking on walls.

Speaking of Reeves, the question on everyone’s mind: What the hell can he possibly act in and be decent (other than Bill and Ted, of course)? I mean, sure he can do all that cool kung-fu, gun fighting stuff, but what about when he talks? Suprisingly enough, this was the first part since Bill and Ted that was written perfectly for him. He had surprisingly little dialogue.

When he did have dialogue all he had to do was act confused (real tough) or recite some variation on the classic Bill and Ted line “Whoa duuuuuude.” His complete and utter lack of emotion even added humor to such quoteable lines as “I know kung fu!” or, my personal favorite, “Guns. Lots of guns.” Oh, that Keanu.

The other actors also delivered fairly fitting performances. Especially noteworthy was Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, a leather clad, material arts expert and mentor to Neo. Also, Hugo Weaving did a spectacular job as the computer agent within the matrix. Dressed like a generic FBI/CIA agent, he delivers his lines with incredible monotony.

A small but rather important part was the Oracle (Gloria Foster), the prophet within the matrix who divines the future. The deal: she is an old lady living in the projects with a lot of little kids that do weird things. One kid is a little British Buddhist boy who bends spoons with his mind. Her best line may come when she points out to Keanu’s character, “You’re not very bright, huh?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, The Matrix isn’t a great film. But it sure is an amazing movie.

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