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THE MATRIX

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Director:  The Wachowski Brothers
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 16x9 Enhanced
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  136 Minutes
Release Date:  September 21, 1999

"Did you hear me?  I love you.

Now GET UP..."

Film ****

Nothing I can say will fully prepare you for the experience of seeing The Matrix.  If you don’t know what it’s all about, or even if you’re pretty sure you do know, trust me…there are many surprises in store for you.  I thought I knew going in, but I had no idea just how deep and far reaching the concept really was.  And don’t worry…no spoilers in this review.

Keanu Reeves plays Thomas Anderson, a mild mannered cubicle dweller by day, and a hacker named Neo at night.  For a long time now, he has been intrigued by the concept of the “matrix”…something he can’t quite identify, but still believes it exists, and something he’s trying desperately to find.  His search eventually leads him to Morpheus (Fishburne) and Trinity (Moss), two other famed but low profile hackers.  They know he’s on to something, as do the Agents, a strange team of law enforcers who appear to be protecting the secret of the matrix.

Soon, Neo finds himself face to face with the truth…and it is more incredible, frightening, and extensive than neither he nor the audience could have ever imagined.  What’s more, once his concept of real and unreal have been completely shaken up and turned upside down, it appears he may be destined to be the leader of a forthcoming revolution in a war he never knew existed.

The film is an absolute triumph of script and story, and unabashed imagination.  It is also a mind blowing spectacle of action, special effects, and visual style.  It combines the very best of action with the very best of science fiction to create a fully realized and believable futuristic world where no possibility is left unexplored.  And best of all…once you think you’ve gotten the hang of it, and understand the premise and how it works, there’s always one more jaw dropping surprise around the corner.

The Wachowski Brothers, who also wrote and directed the terrific film Bound, have created perhaps the ultimate comic book movie…and I mean that as a compliment.  They’ve drawn heavily on their love for Japanese animation, Hong Kong action films complete with graceful wire work, and combined them for a unique visual look, which no doubt will be an influence felt in the cinematic world for many years to come.  I can’t stress enough just how much this film is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and how much I appreciate the work, dedication, and imagination behind it.

It’s also a film that delights in both thrilling and challenging the audience.  It opens with one of the most exhilarating action sequences conceived, but it’s more than just action.  Clues are dropped as to the nature of the film and the imagined world the characters occupy.  In other words, you can’t help but continue thinking about it after the adrenaline rush is over.  And the movie maintains that momentum throughout.  Every time you see a show stopping piece of action, there’s a topper waiting in the wings.  And each time the film gives you something to ponder about the nature of the matrix, it won’t be long before it gives you something else to think about.  And I can promise, you will be thinking about them, throughout the movie and long past the rolling of the credits.

In short, The Matrix is a multi-tiered movie that never loses sight of its original vision.  It’s complex, but not confusing, thrilling, but not empty, challenging, but not tiring.  It is a skillful blend of many elements all working together to service the story.  It is imagination fully realized.  It is a film that I believe has raised the bar for both action and science fiction, and has proven that it’s possible for a movie to be both thrilling and intelligent at the same time.  No matter where your film tastes may lie, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

Video ***1/2

Warner has presented the film with a terrific anamorphic transfer.  Coloring doesn’t always look natural, but that’s exactly the point.  Green tones were brought up, and blues down, to accentuate the concept that there may be something wrong with the world we’re looking at.  In various other scenes, slight color manipulations are used also to enhance the feel and moods.  Overall, images are sharp and clear, with strong definitions and no bleeding.  There is an occasional bit of grain noticed, but not enough to be a distraction.

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack is spectacular.  Loud and dynamic, and filled with impressive effects, making full use of front and rear stages with plenty of crossovers and good balance.  The .1 channel will definitely have you feeling the vibrations in your chair and on your floor.  Overall, this may be one of the best sounding discs on the market.

Features ****

Where to start?  I haven’t even found everything there is to find on the disc.  Along with some cool animated menus, there is a full length commentary track, cast and crew info, a documentary, two “take the red pill” features that lead to special effects explanations, and a terrific “follow the white rabbit” tool, that allows you to find hidden features as you watch the movie.  Often , you get to see behind the scenes of whatever shot you are watching, and a demonstration of how it was done.  A fun features package.

Summary:

So what is The Matrix?  You definitely want to find out for yourself.  Suffice to say, it is an exciting, original, and smart science fiction thriller, with a great story and concept, a great script, a terrific cast, and an amazing visual look, all on a terrifically packaged disc.  There’s good reason why this became the format’s best selling title.  It’s a must own.

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