The Matrix (R)
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This post-apocalyptic dystopian cyberpunk sci-fi action movie was released in 1999, and I can't remember whether or not I saw it in a theater before seeing it on VHS. But anyway, I'm writing this review after watching it again on DVD in 2020. The movie has visual effects that were somewhat revolutionary at the time, plenty of cool action, and an interesting story.
So... there's a computer programmer named Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who is also a hacker who goes by the handle "Neo." One day he is contacted by another hacker, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who introduces him to a man called Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Meanwhile, they are pursued by mysterious "Agents," the main one being Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Now, to explain the plot any further requires a major spoiler, a truth that Morpheus reveals to Neo. I'll start by saying that Neo has to choose whether he wants to know the truth or not, a decision that is made by swallowing either a red pill or a blue pill. (The red pill will lead to the truth, while the blue pill allows one to remain in blissful ignorance. Outside of this movie franchise, the concept has been used in various other ways, but the one I most associate it with is the "men's rights movement," which uses the term "red pill" to mean... well, I don't want to get into it. I'll just say it's highly ironic, because the so-called truth they believe they awaken to is actually complete bullshit, so that could kind of taint this movie for me, if I let it.) Anyway, Neo takes the red pill, which is actually a tracer program that allows Morpheus's team to locate Neo's real body. You see, all of reality is a computer simulation, set in the late 20th century, when in reality it's the late 22nd century. In the 21st century, there was a war between humans and A.I.s they had created, and now pretty much all of humanity live their entire lives within the simulation, with no knowledge of reality. And the A.I.s use them, essentially, as batteries.
Anyway, once they've located Neo's body, they awaken him for real and bring him aboard their hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar. There are several people on the crew besides Morpheus and Trinity, the most important ones to the story being Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) and Tank. Morpheus believes Neo is "the One," a prophesied savior of the human race, though it's unclear whether he's right or not. Um... I guess I also need to say that the humans who have been awoken can go back into the Matrix (the false reality), where they can do things that should be impossible, because they know it's not reality, but they're still somewhat limited in what they can do. The Agents who chase them are less limited. And they can transfer themselves into any human's digital avatar at any time, while the free humans have to make their way to extraction points if they want to get out of the Matrix, which of course the Agents try to stop them from doing. And they want to capture Morpheus, who has information about the Resistance that is very valuable to them. (His ship is just one of several, and the Agents want to learn where their home base, a city called Zion, is located in the real world. Or whatever. Codes for their mainframe computer, and stuff.) Meanwhile, Morpheus takes Neo to meet someone in the Matrix called the Oracle, who somehow knows, you know, lots of stuff. She doesn't seem to think Neo is "the One," though her words are... open to interpretation, I'd say.
Beyond that, I don't want to spoil any more details, except to say that the good guys win a battle, but the war goes on. Anyway... it's just all pretty cool. What's also cool is something that wasn't confirmed until years after the film came out, that it's actually an allegory for being transgender. The film's writer/directors, the Wachowskis, came out as transgender women in 2008 (Lana) and 2016 (Lilly). This allegory angle makes the story a bit more interesting to me, but it doesn't affect my rating or general appreciation of the film, which I still think of mainly on the surface level as sci-fi/action.