Matrix, The (1999): Wachowskis’ Inventive Picture, Starring Keanu Reeves

Warner announced: “In 1999, the Matrix has you. On March 31st, the fight for the future begins.”  “The Matrix” was launched through a massive “teaser” campaign, featuring such catchy taglines as “Believe the unbelievable,” and “Reality is a thing of the past.”

The sense of intrigue and conspiracy was enhanced through questions like “”What is the matrix?” and the intriguingly vague and mysterious answer: “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is.  You have to see it for yourself,” and “the future will not be user friendly.”

The film was released on March 31, an unusual date for a picture planned and destined to become a blockbuster franchise.

What was more surprising is that there was no warning that the sibling writer-directors, Andy and Larry Wachowski, were capable of such a large-scale, big-budget enterprise, defined by technical innovations and unparalleled kinetic energy, for their beginnings were rather modest and unimpressive.

Based in Chicago, the Wachowskis began their careers as comic book writers, before writing the banal screenplay for “Assassins” in 1995, and directing a low-budget indie, “Bound” in 1996, a lesbian film noir that traveled the gay fest circuit and barley grossed $3 million at the box-office.

As a sci-fi, “Matrix,” set in the near future, centers on Thomas Anderson, code-named Neo (Keanu Reeves), a savvy computer hacker, who discovers that life on Earth may be an elaborate façade, which is the product of a villainous cyber-intelligence.

The life essence is being framed to fuel the Matrix’s plan to conquer and dominate the “real” world. To that extent, Neo joins rebel warriors Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn, impressive) and Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) in their struggle to overthrow the malevolent Matrix.

Morpheus introduces Neo to the “real” world, a milieu of 200 years later, when the whole world is a waste, taken over by advanced artificial intelligence machines.  Neo is designated and welcomed as “the One” who will lead human beings to overthrow the machines and reclaim the Earth.

There are only two women in the cast Carrie Anne Moss (who a year later would make a strong impression in Chris Nolan’s striking film noir “Memento”) and Gloria Foster as Oracle.

“The Matrix” has been subjected to varying interpretations, depending on how seriously its contents are taken.  Some scholars see the picture as a commentary on Post-Capitalism as we entered the new Millennium.

Visually and stylistically, the film is indebted to the Hong Kong Cinema of the 1990s, specifically the work of the distinguished John Woo and Yuen Wo-ping, who was hired as choreographer of the masterful action.

The Wachowskis make a cameo (uncredited) appearance, playing window cleaners.

Special mention should be made to the sharp, brilliant imagery of ace lenser Bill Pope and to the moody musical composition on Tim Commerford.

Oscar Alert

Quite unusually, “The Matrix” won Oscars in all four of its technical nominations.




Best Editing: Zach Staenberg


Sound Effects Editing


Visual Effects


Best Sound








Thomas A. Anderson, Nero (Keanu Reeves)


Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)


Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss)


Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving)


Cypher/Mr. Reagan (Joe Pantoliano)


Oracle (Gloria Foster)