|Larry and Andy Wachowski
|Warner Bros.; R; 136 minutes
|Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss
The Matrix is a cool, sultry film set a few hundred years from now when things aren't at all as they seem. In the future, everyone's in black sunglasses or skin-tight leather, usually both. The sky's been scorched, and nasty artificial intelligences keep the few free humans hiding for their lives in a righteous subterranean joint called Zion. (Yup, Keanu is kinda like Moses in this one). The gleefully twisted plot allows The Matrix to astound with an amazing array of special effects: stop-motion animation and beautifully rendered slow-motion action that are sure to set John Woo's mouth watering. The choreographed cinematography of Trinity's (Carrie-Ann Moss) opening chase scene is worth the price of admission alone.
Keanu Reeves' Neo character pulls an illegal disc out of his copy of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation in an early scene, cluing the audience into the disorientation implicit in an age of advanced unreality. Is if that's not enough, the Oracle turns out to be a cookie-baking black woman.
The fact that Reeves and Laurence Fishburne ham things up is balanced by the faux-seriousness of the three “sentient agents” — killer machines parading as nearly identical white men whose dialogue is self-consciously pastiched from a variety of tough-guy action flights. In short, The Matrix is good for its looks, its ideas, and its super-cool flair. It's a true movie — something made to be experienced in the woozy cocoon of virtual-reality also known as your local movie theater.