The Matrix ★★★

Second viewing, last seen around the age of nine or ten (my main takeaway being that the slo-mo action scenes looked awesome and that I wanted to be cool like Neo was). Now, this all still rings true, but in retrospect, I honestly find this as gripping a film about identity — descriptors like ‘residual self image’ along with lines such as “I figured you’d be a guy” all beckon a much more allegorical reading than the synopsis would suggest — as it is a hyperstylized action blockbuster. Hardly revelatory analysis I know, as even without directorial context, it’s not difficult to stumble on to these conclusions if you’re paying attention. Neo’s choice between red pill or blue (the latter entailing a life of conformity, the former a life of rebellion and self-actualization) may be one of most strikingly clear depictions of a film’s ideas I’ve seen, but the blatancy of THE MATRIX’s thematic fixations is no misstep: it’s this very blunt perceptibility that gives The Wachowskis all of the wiggle room they need to create one of the most thrilling and inventive genre pieces I’ve seen come out of Hollywood. Difficult to overstate just how astonishingly the cyberpunk aesthetics resonate when paired with the scope of the world created here, and it’s worth noting that Neo’s final showdown with Agent Smith is probably as riveting as it’s ever been—the effects will likely go on to become laughable and dated, but the pure thrill the visual language evokes will remain all the same. Trying to imagine the release of a blockbuster this revolutionary and ambitious in the largely post-auteur cinematic landscape that’s been brewing since the release of Marvel’s IRON MAN in 2008 is quite the depressing task indeed.

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