Film - The Matrix

There is no spoon as Kraig Taylor-Bryant digs into The Matrix...

Now one of the things that made me want to re-watch this film is that, this year, The Matrix is officially going to be 20 years old. It’s always been surprising to me, when I re-watch a film such as The Matrix and Star Wars, and I can almost forget that they are older than I am, because those films have aged incredibly well. I think the reason for that, though, is the experimental style that creators like the Wachowskis and George Lucas took, when filming such cinematic masterpieces such as this.

One of the amazing things that The Matrix is famous for, and is one of the more prominent reasons why I wanted to revisit this cultural phenomenon, is the amazing “camera trick” that the directors came up with from the get-go. There is a shot where the directors would take numerous pictures of the same thing at the same time, when an actor is doing a jump or any particular stunt during a fight sequence. Their plan for this shot, when they filmed it, was to place multiple cameras around the actor, and having the sequence of shots put together and slowed down, to make it look as if they actor remained in the air for a short space of time, whilst having the shot rotate round the whole of their body, to make the return to “real time” combat, feel all the more impactful.

The film, despite its age, manages to impress with its enjoyable slow-motion action shots to this day, with its fast-paced combat being just as impressive. So, when it comes to how the combat is shot, this film definitely doesn’t look dated. The clever mix of sound effects during the fights as well as the interesting side angles, that a lot of punching shots don’t tend to do, make this film more than unique when it comes to the combat, with shots such as dodging bullets in slow motion complementing this significantly.

Now, to the story of the film. For those who don’t know, this film is about a man named Neo (Keanu Reeves), who wakes up one day questioning everything he’s ever known, because he realises that there are moments in his life when he doesn’t know if he’s dreaming or not. It is because he is oversleeping so much in this “dream world”, that he is late for work and gets yelled at by his boss. Eventually this leads to him being looked for by a group of suited men headed up by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and being called up by a mysterious man (Laurence Fishburne) that we would later hear to be called Morpheus. Eventually he ends up being asked to scale around the side of his office building to avoid the suited people but ends up refusing and getting caught. Neo is continually referred to as “the one”, later in the story, though I think this movie takes an interesting spin on it, by making it seem as though anyone could be special, they’ve just got to “choose the right path”. And I think that in the moment where he chooses not to scale around the side of the building, it shows that he doesn’t quite believe in himself yet. 

Eventually Neo ends up getting saved by a group of people, telling him that he’s living in a dream world, these are a group of people working for Morpheus, and after they bring him to him, Neo is left with the option to take a blue pill or the red pill, one showing him the real world, and the other keeping him in the dream world, without having any memory of his encounter with Morpheus. He ends up choosing the red pill, though earlier in his conversation with Morpheus he says that he “doesn’t like the idea of not being in control of his own life”, and I think that’s the main reason why he wanted to see the real world. This leads him to wake up in a world that is around 200 years in the future, where the planet has been ruined, and can revisit the dream world, to fight off the suited men, (which are in fact, programmes that are controlled by the robots that help to create this dream world), who have the intention of killing those that are “awake”, and well aware of what the real world is now. The way they revisit this world, is by being “plugged in” to machines, that will temporarily transport them back to the dream world, and when they’re in danger, are able to use telephone lines to come back to the real world.

From very early on in the movie, Neo is told by Morpheus that he is “The One”, making him think that he can do whatever he sets his mind to, from the start. But I think it’s this overconfidence that makes him believe the complete opposite all the more sooner, because he thinks that being “the one” would just come naturally. There are moments in this movie where the audience might expect him to be the best at everything and be able to do amazing things from the get-go. But the film surprises us with moments that show that he still is as vulnerable as everyone else, this is what makes him feel guilty when Morpheus sacrifices himself to protect Neo from the suited men. We see that he is just like everyone else, when he fails tests, such as being able to jump from one building to another, which requires him to ‘clear his mind’. He even is told that he’s “not the one”, by the “Oracle” (Gloria Foster) a mysterious “soothsayer” of sorts, who is able to tell people their destiny.

Although Morpheus tells Neo that there is no right or wrong with the Oracle, the Oracle can merely show them the path ahead, and essentially, be their guide. I think it was at this point that the Oracle was just telling Neo that this is the path he was heading down, the path where he isn’t “the one”. But in the moment when he’s feeling hopeless and dying, a woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who works for Morpheus, encourages him to get up, and to fight the suited men, in which he manages to beat one of them, making the others run away in fear. And I think its moments like that where this “chosen one” theme is in the case that you just have to believe in yourself, to choose for that to be your destiny, which is really quite inspiring.

I think that the idea of this movie could have stemmed form the fact, that, in a way, we do feel sometimes feel as if we are humans who are living out our lives in a dream world, a life where we are contributing to a master of sorts and not really getting much back. Or you could even look at it like this: even in real life we try to create an escape from the issues that we face in the modern day, such as through watching TV shows or movies. Even getting drunk is sometimes seen as a good way to forget about your troubles, and I think, in a way this dream world represents the escape from the dystopian future that is the reality, just like how we like to escape to avoid worrying about bills, and what could happen if you don’t get your pay check on time. Its things such as media, video games and drinking that are luxuries that people use to avoid the worries of these things, because these are what everyone constantly has to worry about. Making this their way to immerse themselves in a different world, or at least see it from a different perspective, and that’s kind of what this film does to both us and the characters, when they enter the dream world.

The film also kind of explores how different people, might react to seeing the reality of things, through characters such as “Cypher” (Joe Pantoliano), one of Morpheus’ crew members, in the real world. He entirely regrets choosing to see the reality, showing that he clearly has adopted the opinion that “ignorance is bliss”, which he says so himself, and makes it even more clear when he tries to find an escape from what’s real, since he can’t go back to the dream world, at least not until he makes a deal with the suited men, he decides to get drunk, which again, is how some of us as humans find it the best way to avoid difficult situations that life throws at us. Now the other people in this film seem to believe that it is the curiosity of ever knowing what is real and what isn’t, that is what makes taking the red pill worth it, as well as the knowledge that they are saving the lives of others. And that’s what makes them different to Cypher in the most important way possible, they are selfless, and care about the real world, and Cypher is neither of these things, even attempting to kill all of his crew mates, to have the chance to live out his life in the dreamworld, ignorant to the real world entirely.

But overall, I think it’s the compelling characters, such as Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Cypher, and many more, as well as the compelling story telling, and even the incredible action sequences, that makes this movie a classic, and well worth watching if you haven’t already seen it, or re-watching if you have.

Follow Kraig on Twitter @kraigandhismac

Image - IMDb

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