Have you ever woken up suddenly in the middle of the night, startled from an extremely vivid dream? Your eyes snap open, but it takes a moment for your brain to fully regain consciousness and to distinguish between the dream and reality. It only lasts a few heartbeats, but it’s a disconcerting feeling, as your brain re-establishes what is real.
That’s exactly the sort of feeling the character “Neo” gets in the classic sci-fi movie “The Matrix.” He makes a discovery that leaves him wondering exactly what is real and what is not.
“The Matrix” was released in 1999, garnering attention for its mind-bending plot and groundbreaking special effects. It has certainly impacted many of the sci-fi and action films that followed it, and I wanted to watch it as part of my movie bucket list project. Having never watched it before (I know, I know, this is almost as bad as never having watched a Quentin Tarantino film) ;) I was curious to see if the film still had the same impact 15 years after its release. (Warning: This blog contains some spoilers about the film.)
“The Matrix” is based on a thought-provoking premise: is it better to face reality than live in a dream world, even if that reality is harsh and disconcerting? The film is set in the future, in a time where artificially intelligent machines have enslaved humanity, keeping all people trapped in a dream-like state so they can be more easily controlled. Humans believe this “dream state” is real, and no one is aware they’re just living a lie.
A band of revolutionaries “wake up” a hacker called Neo (Keanu Reeves), believing him to be the man prophesied to free humanity. Neo is trained in combat but maintains doubts he can truly serve as a savior. He has to believe in himself before he can save others.
I really enjoyed this movie and found that the special effects and plot held up pretty well over time. The movie is known for its frequent use of stylized slow motion to highlight the well-choreographed stunts and fight scenes. The special effects probably don’t come across quite as groundbreaking now as they did in 1999, but that’s simply because many other films since then have used those same techniques. I found echoes of “The Matrix” in films like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” another great sci-fi movie about dreams and altering reality.
The themes in “The Matrix” also remain relevant. One character chooses to betray the other revolutionaries and return to “the Matrix” dream world. Even though he knows nothing in the Matrix is real, he’d rather live a happier lie than face a real but grim future. As our own world becomes more uncertain – political turmoil, new diseases, financial crises – it’s tempting to retreat from these threats and problems. But denying those issues doesn’t make them go away; we’re not really escaping, we’re just falling “deeper down the rabbit hole.” The film also touches on the power of technology, and how it can be both a useful tool or a dangerous weapon, depending on how it is used.
I thought “The Matrix” was a good film that’s still worth watching. It’s a stylishly shot and entertaining piece of sci-fi that raises intriguing questions about humanity and reality.
Next up on the movie bucket list: “The Godfather.”