Philip Carroll’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?"
This film has always been special to me. I first saw it in my teens and it made quite the impression. Not only was I blown away by the action and effects, but the complex sci-fi storyline as well. I loved these characters and their little personality traits. I thought Keanu Reeves was the coolest guy on the planet, and it turns out he still is to this day. The trenchcoats, the sunglasses, the agents that were terrifying and could appear anywhere, and that code scrolling down all those monitors. There are so many iconic moments that revolutionized the future of filmmaking. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite old enough to see this in theaters when it first came out. So to be able to watch it in a theater with Dolby atmos speakers for it's 20th anniversary, was like a dream come true. And I'm happy to report that this still holds up and it looked and sounded better than ever on the big screen.
After a hacker named Thomas Anderson who goes by the alias of Neo, discovers some secrets that could turn his world upside down, he is arrested and literally implanted with a bug by these mysterious men in suits. A man named Morpheus contacts him and offers him the truth about the world he lives in. Neo accepts and suddenly finds himself on a ship with a rag tag group of resistance fighters that believe he is their savior that was prophesied to bring an end to their war against the machines.
So I didn't realize until years later that a lot of the influences from this were from anime. Granted, I only recently started watching some anime. But after watching the original Ghost in a Shell, I can definitely see the similarities. Nothing against the Wachowski's, who were able to borrow these elements and create something that felt fresh and original. I just remember wondering when I first saw it, how they were able to come up with these incredible ideas and put them onscreen. In any case, they succeeded.
All of the cast is perfect. Reeves is not one that most people would consider a versatile actor but not only was this role perfect for him, but I actually think he did a great job and don't remember a single scene where his acting felt flat or out of place. This was my first introduction to Carrie Anne Moss who really gives a reserved performance through most of it as Trinity, but her presence is always felt and she makes for a strong and well established female lead. Hugo Weaving is also brilliant as the main antagonist, Agent Smith, who is really dry but also has a sort of dark sense of humor. Plus, he's just downright menacing if you cross him. And then of course, there's Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheous, whose performance and speaking voice, rivals Weaving's at every turn. He makes for a good leader of the group with his wisdom and commanding presence. Frankly, I love all of the characters from the scheming Joe Pantoliano as Cypher, who is terrific for his smaller part, to Switch, Apoc, Mouse, and the always upbeat brothers, Tank and Dozer. Finally, we cannot forget about Gloria Foster as the Oracle and her captivating one scene performance. It's so unexpected and yet it's just what the film needed before we're thrown back into another tension fueled action sequence.
The costume design for our heroes is so ridiculous and you'd think they'd want to blend in more while jacking in to the Matrix, but it somehow all works and you can't deny what an impact this film and the outfits had on pop culture. I still get chills when Neo and Trinity go on their rescue mission in the third act and we finally get to see what Neo is capable of. The whole film has been building to this point and it all pays off beautifully with a thrilling and explosive finale. This is why I love movies so much and especially the science fiction genre. It's one of the few genres that would put together a unique story that's full of imagination and great characters that use gravity defying martial arts and bullet dodging gun battles against a group of seemingly unstoppable foes that can become anyone. And it all could have gone so wrong in someone else's hands but the somewhat unknown, Wachowski's poured all their passion and creativity into this project and made an incredible impact in the world of cinema. Have I mentioned that I love this film?
P.S. The only thing I don't understand is why the R rating. There's really not anything in here to warrant this rating.