“What is real? How do you define real?” Better yet, how do you sum up a movie that changed our perception of “real” so effortlessly in only 136 minutes? The Matrix is such a force of nature it pushed the boundaries of cinema, not to mention launched the flip-phone phenomenon and made leather and army boots the In fashion choice. It is a movie with a very deep message about the growth of technology, but is presented with some of the most kick-ass philosophy you will ever see.
The Matrix revolves around the idea that our world – the one with the iPhones – isn’t “reality” as we’ve come to define it. It’s actually a computer program known as the Matrix, built for our minds to cruise around in like ignorant Packmen while our bodies lie asleep in the “real” world outside. These comatose bodies are the main food source for the world’s newest dominant life form: artificial intelligence. Neo Anderson (Keanu Reeves), desk jockey by day and hacker by night, is unknowingly stuck in the Matrix like the rest of us. He is chosen, however, by a group of rebel humans in the outside world to be “woken up” because they believe him to be The One – a profit who will purge the world of the machines and free humanity from the Matrix. Quite a heavy pill to swallow.
Amazingly, such profound philosophy doesn’t weigh the movie down. A lot of films with deep, complex premises spend half their reel time explaining how deep and complex they are. The Matrix somehow manages to get the message across clearly without drowning the viewer in exposition. The point is to sit back and enjoy the experience. Debates, reasoning, and potential thesis questions can come later, after a generous pause and a few glasses of wine.
While the entire movie is one giant mind-melt, there are a few lines that could fuel entire philosophy courses by themselves. For example, my favourite: “There is no spoon.” The spoon does not exist, so it cannot bend; it is your mind that bends. Whaaaaaat? Genius.
But enough about the message, what about the medium? Slow motion in 2014 is cliché. In 1999 it was not. The Matrix uses slow motion to show a human’s supernatural speed against, say, flying bullets. The camera swings around the subject giving you a seamless 360° view of all kinds of action: hand-to-hand combat, helicopters flying into buildings, smoke and guns, and the destruction of the dustiest buildings Australia has to offer. Keanu Reeves may look like a one-trick pony, but casting him in this film would be like asking a trapeze artist to branch out and play a trapeze artist. Neo is a character built on Kung Fu maneuverability, stoicism, blank-faced ignorance, and that numb stare that says “I didn’t think I could but… well… I can.”
There are so many recognizable bits to this movie it couldn’t help but be a cult classic, with the script, the cinematography, the hair gel, and the leather. I label it a movie on acid, however, not because of the flash and bang, but because of the blow-your-mind philosophy. It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of worlds upon worlds, especially if one of them stuffs our lives into pointless, fishbowl-like prisons. Would you rather live in ignorant bliss, avoiding “reality” through a dream-world, or live in the “real” world and know that its destruction was your fault? Red pill or blue pill? The Matrix is one of those movies that just won’t go away, with two sequels, an animated series, several games, and a generation of people who overthink their déjà-vus. It’s a 10/10 because it was a turning point in cinema with a very interesting ripple effect, reaching into conversations and classrooms alike.