The matrix a ground breaking film that is arguably one of the most influential movies in sci-fi and action released March 31st 1999. Directed by the Wachowski's this film absolutely holds up and upon watching it in a theatre where it was intended it is a beautifully crafted film in so so many waits as a bit of background, the Wachowski's were able to bring the matrix to life after they signed on to a deal that saw three of their original scripts purchased by Warner Brothers. The head of production at the time Lorenzo de Bonaventure read another of their scripts called assassins which led to the deal taking place and off the back of their critical success found the Wachowski's approached Warner Brothers with a request to develop the matrix. Into the feature that it is, early production saw Will Smith tapped for neo and interestingly Val Kilmer as Morpheus, Will Smith has since admitted that he turned down the role opting to go for wild wild west because he simply didn't understand the concept of the matrix a decision he no doubt to hold some regret for, considering wild wild west was not exactly a smash hit. The Wachowski's managed to get a 60 million dollar production budget for this venture, which back in 1999 was a very sizable sum. However. if they were to flesh out this futuristic world with deep thought-provoking concepts it was an absolute must not to mention these special effects which having just re-watched it, absolutely ho even by today's standards. As production began rolling around the Wachowski's had enlisted a cast of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne moss. Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano for the main key roles. However for watching the matrix last night one thing struck me about the actors involved in the movie, is that all actors key or supporting are all very - very good.
And I know this may sound like an obscure thing to reference in a retrospective but it really isn't, unfortunately today I could and you could also pick out a handful of films that have great lead stars but abysmal supporting cast which only serves to lower the quality of the overall film. The Matrix is not like this in any way the supporting cast are at least on par
with the lead stars some providing absolutely stellar performances that really are a standout, take Marcus Chong the man who played tank the operator in the matrix as he meets neo and discusses the potential to come, this man puts in a performance that really is believable
fantastic mannerisms key emoting inflection onwards and cadence in line delivery was all absolutely incredible. Now the same sadly cannot be said to today's blockbusters, a lot of the supporting cast absolutely let's down the leads and this isn't merely a retrospective
thought seeing it through rose-tinted glasses, It absolutely is the case. Keanu Reeves puts in a great performance here as neo he is believable and he is likable with it a fish out of water
searching for the answer to the question what question what is the matrix. Now Laurence Fishburne is the man to answer this question the most dangerous man alive according to the nefarious Agent Smith, a man who is liberating humans from a machine controlled program the matrix a virtual reality that keeps them subdued as power sources for the machines in the real world. A mind-bending concept but one that enabled the Wachowskis to explore two often many more different realities and time periods. In cinema we have time travel an overused trope by any stretch of the imagination but by using a machine program a virtual world which is explained to actually be a representation of the past, we can then experience the future a form of time travel this is without the same universe breaking ramifications and it is an incredibly fresh take. We see the future wasteland, we see the world as it is in their modern day and we see the fields of human beings farmed for their energy. This is where we start to see the CGI which I would argue genuinely holds up to today's standards there are key reasons for this they clearly spent time and care on it but more importantly the use of
lighting was near perfect, the design of the machines as well something that can be argued to be one of the elements to the success of the franchise. Squid looking sentinels, an insectoid human farming machine and of course as we're talking about CGI we cannot ignore the use of practical effects. This film has neo waking really waking in a scene which can be described as body horror a tank of thick viscous gel like substance tubes and wires aplenty, it's this attention to detail on the design of these pods that really adds to the film's overall impact, something I'm sure you would agree with. Carrie - Anne Moss puts in a very good performances Trinity and the physicality that she brought to the screen was undeniable. All of actors in fact due to the use of gun foo really brought their A-game something we just hadn't really seen before in this way, pioneering bullet time and slow-mo panning and sweeping camera angles mid-air leaps and whirled bending physics. All pioneered and things which really do stand the test of time imitated often and never surpassed in quality and execution but these are all things you undoubtedly know about the film.
The cinematography however is something I really have to draw a light to though which house keys use of framing and camera angles although admittedly very 90s very bombastic at times absolutely works. For the product and for the overall genre and the movie something that holds up for sure take Morpheus meeting neo for instance a scene where we finally meet the elusive man the most dangerous man alive. A man these strangers would kill for would die for, this is a scene that really has to have impact otherwise we'll be left feeling like it was all build up and no payoff but boy is there payoff the use of lightning in this scene the slow mannerisms of Laurence Fishburne and the framing of the actor in the shot add to this prowess that this man is to be feared, to be respected, to be believed, someone who is important and someone who means business. Paired with the mild manner in which Laurence Fishburne speaks we have a duality to this scene that is greatly appreciated and the way all actors are dressed in the film is a notable design aesthetic that needs to be addressed and praised. It was very in keeping with the film's concept and added to it without being cheesy and over-the-top to a negative. Was it over-the-top? yes but not to the detriment of the film and one such costume design was Morpheus the unique sunglasses he wears to the trench coat which not only serve as one of the most iconic looks in modern cinema but also are utilized in the shot to a high degree. As Morpheus sits in the yoke down and begins to discuss the matrix the answers to the questions and hopefully setting him free we see this conversation from two angles one neo sat in the armchair in tent eager filled with trepidation and the second from Morpheus framed in his glasses we see neo. The scene shifts between the perspectives to a near perfect degree I believe the reflection is practical up into the point though that is absolutely my guess. However, the reflection being a key focus through the shot and seeing the pills being presented to knew in that way as for the intense nature of the scene the gravity of what is about to happen the opportunities that await neo and the potential outcome. It's this level of expert cinematography that made the film so iconic paired with everything else of course we also had an absolutely amazing soundtrack from artists that most of a certain generation will recognize today The Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Death tones and Rammstein to name but a few this all added to the film. To accentuate scenes and add dramatic tension or to build the world out for that particular scene like the nightclub where neo meets Trinity for the first time we see this gritty fetish like club with the unique piece by Rob Zombie in a background. In short The Matrix is a staggering achievement a high-concept sci-fi film that stands the test of time whether the sequels do or don't is absolutely up for debate but The Matrix has earned its place in cinema history that is evidenced in how it is bled through an influence so many of the film's thereafter.