[box cover]

The Matrix

To give away too much of the plot of The Matrix would be unfair (at least to the handful of you who haven't seen it yet), but in the barest of details, computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) is trying to contact Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the leader of a nebulous hacking underground, unaware that Morpheus and his comrades have been trying to reach Neo for some time. Neo and Morpheus meet, but before the rebel leader can introduce Neo to his struggle, he has to explain just what their struggle is — the what is both the key to The Matrix and a very clever premise. However, what makes this deservedly popular film so great isn't just one thing, but several. Few directors have dared to tread on the cyberpunk genre (first introduced in William Gibson's groundbreaking 1984 novel Neuromancer), and the complex cyber-scapes the genre created were essentially unfilmable in the '80s. But 15 years after Neuromancer, co-writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski offered the first film that stays true to the heady nature of cyberpunk while also being an entertaining two hours of cinema. After giving over a generous amount of the script to some thoughtful character exposition (and also explaining the "rules" of the Matrix universe), what follows is a flat-out adrenaline rush of action that not only acknowledges the films of John Woo, but rivals them (also keep your eyes open for some choice Wachowski Brothers references to such films as Nosferatu, Die Hard, Terminator 2, and several American westerns). Reeves, easily one of the most clueless actors to ever enjoy a major film career, succeeds as Neo simply because Neo is so clueless, and what he does best — action sequences and looking pretty — he does with his traditional slack-jawed gusto. Fishburne fills the shoes of the imposing Morpheus nicely, and Hugo Weaving, as creepy Agent Smith, dominates every scene he has. Also starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano. Great transfer, subwoofer-friendly DD 5.1, commentary track with Moss, film editor Zach Staenberg, and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, 26-minute HBO "First Look" documentary, an isolated music score, and cast and crew notes. Hidden content as "Easter eggs" includes two special effects documentaries ("What is Bullet Time?" and "What is the Concept?"). Are you a fan of The Matrix? Then go read Neuromancer — it's even better. (What's more, in a recent interview with William Gibson by a DVD Journal staffer [on day-duty for a print publication], the author said that he loves this film).
—JJB

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