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The Matrix  

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano Directed by: Larry Wachoski and Andy Wachoski Written by: Larry Wachoski and Andy Wachoski

Early on in "The Matrix", a computer programmer sits alone at his cubicle. A package is delivered to him. The package contains a cellular phone. The phone rings. A deep, mysterious voice is on the other end. The programmer is told his life is in danger. Just then, a couple of ominous-looking men enter and begin searching for the unknowing programmer. He realizes he must escape, but isn't sure how to. Then, the voice on the phone begins giving him step-by-step directions on the best way to escape the building. What does the programmer do? He listens to the man on the cell phone, of course.

In a sense, that sequence pretty much describes the essence of "The Matrix" and what makes it work. It's the kind of movie where you just have to go with it, even if it's not clear what it is you're going with. When the programmer (Keanu Reeves) realizes he has no choice but to go along with the weird events unfolding in front of him, the audience must do the same.
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Since most of the enjoyment in "The Matrix" comes from watching the bizarre story unfold, I won't give away too many details. Reeves plays Neo, a computer programmer by day who spends his off time looking into the mystery of something called the Matrix. As the movie opens, he seems to know about the Matrix (apparently through messages sent to him via computer) but doesn't know what it is. With the help of a sexy rebel named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and the shadowy leader of a resistance group (Laurence Fishburne), he begins to understand the complexity of the cyberintelligent terror which has engulfed the world he has come to know and understand.

The film was written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski ("Bound"), and I can only imagine them attempting to write a coherent plotline while simultaneously trying to keep the details of their story straight. It's the kind of concept that is so complex, the actors don't really act as much as simply try to explain to each other what's going on. But the movie does work, mainly because the Wachowski brothers do a nice job of maintaining an aura of fascination as the story unfolds. I didn't always understand what was happening at every moment, but the film held my attention in its steady grasp, as I was always eager to learn more.

The fabulous special effects add to the movie's intriguing story. Since the idea revolves around the concept of virtual reality and cyberintelligence, the film is able to have a great deal of fun with its effects. Anything is possible in worlds like this, and the special effects team takes full advantage of it.

The only negative aspect of the film is in the last half hour, where the strange and interesting ideas early on are replaced by lots and lots of gunfire and enough martial arts to wear out Jackie Chan. Still, the movie is a visual treat and tells a story that I'm still trying to completely figure out. Somehow, I get the feeling the Wachowski brothers wouldn't have it any other way.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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