The Matrix

USA/Australia 1999

Film still for The Matrix

Reviewed by Philip Strick


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Menial office worker Thomas Anderson operates by night as computer hacker Neo. Warnings from unknown girl Trinity fail to prevent his detention by law-enforcement agent Smith, who demands Neo help capture notorious subversive Morpheus. Refusing to co-operate, Neo is released. Trinity takes him to meet Morpheus, leader of the struggle against the Matrix, an artificial intelligence that controls the world. Morpheus explains that the planet's long-derelict citizens are trapped in the illusion of 1999 (really the distant past) until converted into food and energy to power the Matrix itself.

Joining Morpheus' team, Neo endures an agonising awakening process. Although his body is on a life-support system, a mental projection of his digital self roams the Matrix's simulation of the everyday. He can also be programmed with phenomenal skills. Morpheus is convinced they have found in Neo the fabled leader, The One, who can rescue the planet. Betrayed by fellow crew-member Cypher, Morpheus is captured by Smith, desperate to prise from him the location of Zion, the last stronghold of humanity. Rushing to the rescue, Neo and Trinity battle enormous odds to save him. As Matrix forces close in, Smith traps Neo and shoots him down. But when Trinity declares her love to Neo's body his digital self is miraculously resurrected. He blows Smith apart and returns to his body just in time to thwart the Matrix invaders. Embracing Trinity and accepting his role as The One, he prepares to revitalise a dormant world.


The Wachowski Brothers wrote and sold the script for The Matrix before they made their first film, the mesmerising crime thriller Bound. They have since reported that between comic-book conception (a spin-off from their work at Marvel on the Hellraiser stories) and production go-ahead, "the script that nobody understands" underwent considerable fine-tuning, thanks to studio insistence on explanatory dialogue. Even so, for a breathlessly vertiginous first quarter The Matrix scorns offering any rationale behind its attention-grabbing assaults and chases, leaving only its peevish spokesperson to mutter legitimate protests on our behalf ("This is insane! Why is it happening to me? What did I do?") until reasonably concluding he must be half-asleep. At which point, naturally, he falls into the grasp of Morpheus.

The Wachowskis are good at names, as they demonstrated with the title and main trio of Bound: Corky (buoyant), Violet (clinging) and Caesar (dictatorial). Conjuring up a flock of evocations - Cypher, Tank, Switch, Apoc, Mouse - for The Matrix, they invest the film's gradually uncovered crusade with a rich blend of messianic implications blatantly signalled by warrior priestess Trinity. Her unifying presence links - and exchanges - the powers of Morpheus the dream-master with those of the long-sought saviour Neo (note the anagram) who is at once the New Man (as in, by useful coincidence, Neo-Tokyo, subsumed by Akira) and the neophyte disciple.

More squarely, the film is an ironic rereading of Logan's Run (1976), with a nod to Soylent Green (1973) and more than a dash of Zardoz (1973). The Wachowskis unveil a seedy utopia where mankind is preserved, protected and endlessly recycled by its own mega-computer. The alternative to this artificial stasis is, as usual, well beyond the wit of mortal proles. Necessarily, The Matrix ends much where it started, its newborn visionary poised - like Logan or 2001's Starchild or THX 1138's hero or even like Luke Skywalker (prime exponent of the "Why me?" syndrome) - on the brink of literally unimaginable new benefits. Away from the meddlesome tyranny of the machine, the superhero will be in charge. There's always One.

The prospect is less than reassuring and the Wachowskis don't hide their misgivings. Played by Keanu Reeves with a certain gloomy helplessness, Neo gives a good impression of being incapable of original thought (he is, after all, as programmed as any Matrix slave) and little sign of inspiring social reform. But two voices speak loudly and persuasively on behalf of the Matrix: the traitorous terrorist Cypher celebrates it for colourful comforts unmatched by the drab post-apocalyptic real world; and the fearsome man-in-black humanoid Agent Smith (not quite Winston Smith, but the Wachowskis, recognising an affinity, have mischievously appended a Room 101) spells out its evolutionary task by dismissing humans as "a plague - and we are the cure". The same dispassionate logic was prologue to The Terminator and more recently at the core of Virus.

But if the Wachowskis claim no originality of message, they are startling innovators of method. As with Bound, the film is a feast of unexpected fidgets and perspectives, punctuated by trademark overhead shots and teasing detail and detour, such as the squeal of washed windows as Neo is reprimanded by his boss, or the White Rabbit subtext culminating in a glimpse of Night of the Lepus (1972) on a television. Just as in Bound, telephones play a vital role, while the fetishistic use of shades and black leather tells yet another story, encompassing Smith's chipped lens and Neo's triumphal final outfit. Primarily, The Matrix is a wonderland of tricks and stunts, light years from Kansas, combining computerised slow-motion with the extravagant choreography of martial-arts movies to create a broadside of astonishing images. As Neo turns cartwheels, blazing away behind wildly exploding decor, it seems clear that the Wachowskis have discovered a gleeful utopia of their own.


Joel Silver
The Wachowski Brothers
Director of Photography
Bill Pope
Zach Staenberg
Production Designer
Owen Paterson
Music/Music Conductor/ Orchestrations
Don Davis
© Warner Bros. (US/Canada/Bahamas/ Bermuda)
©Village Roadshow (BVI) Limited (all other territories)
Production Companies
Warner Bros. present in association with Village Roadshow Pictures/Groucho II
Film Partnership a Silver Pictures production
Executive Producers
Barrie M. Osborne
Andrew Mason
Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski
Erwin Stoff
Bruce Berman
Dan Cracchiolo
Associate Producers
Richard Mirisch
Carol Hughes
Production Co-ordinators
Megan Worthy
2nd Unit:
Jane Griffin
Julia Peters
Unit Production Manager
Carol Hughes
Unit Managers
Will Matthews
2nd Unit:
Simon Lucas
Locations Managers
Peter Lawless
2nd Unit:
Robin Clifton
2nd Unit Director
Bruce Hunt
Assistant Directors
Colin Fletcher
James McTeigue
Noni Roy
Tom Read
Paul Sullivan
2nd Unit:
Toby Pease
Jeremy Sedley
Script Supervisors
Victoria Sullivan
2nd Unit:
Gillian Steine
Mali Finn
Shauna Wolifson
Mullinars Casting
Timelapse Cinematography
Simon Carroll Archive
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Ross Emery
Camera Operators
David Williamson
Robert Agganis
Roger Buckingham
Steadicam Operator
Robert Agganis
Wescam Operator
Phil Pastuhov
Visual Effects
John Gaeta
Matt Ferro
Kate Crossley
2D/3D Conceptual Designer
Sergei Chadiloff
Visual Effects
Manex Visual Effects, LLC
Associate Visual Effects Supervisor:
Janek Sirrs
Visual Effects Producer:
Alisoun F. Lamb
Digital Effects Producer:
Diana Giorgiutti
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Rodney Iwashina
Technology Supervisor:
Kim Libreri
Digital Line Producer:
Jeremy Beadell
Line Producer:
Paul Taglianetti
Lead Colour/Lighting TD:
Rudy Poat
Lead Shade Writer:
Steve Demers
Lead Tec Supervisor:
Ivo Kos
Amanda Evans
CG Designer/Animator:
Grant Niesner
FX Animator:
Al Arthur
3D Texture Painter:
Brent Hartshorn
Texture Painter:
Devorah Petty
2D Paint/Roto:
Jeff Allen
2D/3D Paint:
Jay Johnson
Conceptual Art:
Steve Burg
Matte Painting:
Charles Darby
Roy Berkowitz
Anthony Mark
Brian Porter
Film Recorder:
Greg Shimp
Character Animators:
Matt Farell
Jamie Pilgrim
John Lee
Andrew Schneider
Michael Ffish Hemschoot
Daniel Klem
Sean White
Enrique Vila
Technical Supervisors:
John Volny
Joseph Littlejohn
Lewis Siegel
Jason Wardle
Gil Baron
Michael McNeill
Sophia S. Longoria
John A. Tissavary
Barney Robson
John P. Nugent
Mary Leitz
Laura Hanigan
Daniel P. Rosen
Visual Effects
Bullet Time
R&D/Technical Supervisor:
George Borshukov
Character Animator:
Gerard Benjamin Pierre
Technical Consultant:
Mark Weingartner
2D Animator:
Art David
Daniel Sunwoo
John F. Sasaki
J.D. Cowles
Thomas Proctor
Visual Effects
DFilm Services
Executive Producer:
Peter Doyle
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Jon Thum
Digital Effects Producer:
Alaric McAusland
Computer Animation Supervisor:
Sally Goldberg
Animation Supervisor:
Ian McGuffie
Editorial Supervisor:
Jane MacGuire
Technology Manager:
Paul Ryan
Production Co-ordinator:
Rebecca Fox
Digital Composite Supervisors:
Tim Crosbie
Mark Nettleton
Digital Compositors:
Stephen Lunn
David Hodson
Rotoscope Artists:
Elizabeth Carlon
Vanessa White
CGI Lead Animators:
Dominic Parker
Daniele Colajacomo
CGI Animators:
Justin Martin
Rangi Sutton
Visual Effects
Animal Logic Film
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Lynne Cartwright
CGI Artist/Colourist:
David Dulac
Justen Marshall
CGI Designer:
Jane Milledge
CGI Artists:
Lindsay Fleay
Andrew Quinn
Ben Gunsberger
Inferno Artists:
Kirsty Millar
John Breslin
Robin Cave
Krista Jordan
Charlie Armstrong
Grant Everett
Maryanne Lauric
Zareh Nalbandian
I/O Supervisor:
Naomi Hatchman
Screen Graphics:
Thomas Kayser
Additional Visual Effects
Amalgamated Pixels
Special Effects Supervisors
Steve Courtley
Brian Cox
Special Effects Co-ordinator
Robina Osbourne
Special Effects
Rodney Burke
Monty Fieguth
David Pride
Arthur Spink Jr
Dave Young
Arran Gordon
Richard Alexander
Brian Belcher
Nick Beryk
Jeffrey Briggs
Darren De Costa
Paul Fenn
Lloyd Finnemore
Ray Fowler
Bernard Golenko
David Goldie
Paul Gorrie
Pauline Grebert
Leo Henry
David James
Jim Leng
Judy Mae Lewis
Shane Murphy
John Neal
Brigid Oulsnam
Peter Owens
Daniel Patmore
Garry Philips
Pieter Plooy
Recce Robinson
Lou Stefanel
Edwin Treasure
Thomas Van Koeverden
Walter Van Veenandaal
Kerry Williams
Sophie Dick
2nd Unit:
Kimble Hilder
Patrick Carmiggelt
Miniatures/Models Supervisor
Tom Davies
Karen Harborow
Screen Graphics Co-ordinator
Adam McCulloch
Conceptual Designer
Geofrey Darrow
Art Directors
Hugh Bateup
Michelle McGahey
Set Designers
Sarah Light
Jacinta Leong
Godric Cole
Judith Harvey
Andrew Powell
Deborah Riley
Set Decorators
Tim Ferrier
Lisa 'Blitz' Brennan
Marta McElroy
Phil Shearer
Scenic Artist
Peter Collias
Storyboard Artists
Steve Skroce
Tani Kunitake
Collin Grant
Warren Manser
Costume Designer
Kym Barrett
Costume Supervisor
Lyn Askew
2nd Unit Wardrobe
Fiona Nicholls
Key Artist:
Nikki Gooley
2nd Unit Artist:
Kathy Courtney
Cheryl Williams
Make-up Special Effects Design/Creation
Bob McCarron
Senior Make-up Special Effects Artist
Wendy Sainsbury
Make-up Special Effects Artists
Rick Connelly
Sonja Smuk
Elka Wardega
Animatronic Prosthetics
Make-up Effects Group Studio
Paul Katte
Nick Nicolaou
Animatronics Designer
Trevor Tighe
Titles Designed by
Pacific Title/Mirage
Music Editors
Lori Eschler Frystak
Zigmund Gron
Music Score Recordist
Armin Steiner
Music Score Mixer
Larry Mah
"Dissolved Girl" by Robert Del Naja, Grantley Marshall, Andrew Vowles, Sara Jay, Matt Schwartz, performed by Massive Attack; "Dragula (Hot Rod Herman Mix)" by Rob Zombie, Scott Humphrey, performed by Rob Zombie; "Mindfields" by Liam Howlett, performed by Prodigy; "Leave You Far Behind (Lunatics Roller Coaster Mix)" by Simon Shackleton, Howard Saunders, performed by Lunatic Calm; "Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Mix)" by Rob Dougan, performed by Rob D; "Prime Audio Soup" by Jack Dangers, C. Dodd, performed by Meat Beat Manifesto; "Begin the Run" from the Film "Night of the Lepus" by Jimmie Haskell; "Minor Swing" by Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli, performed by Django Reinhardt; "I'm Beginning to See the Light" by Duke Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges, Harry James, performed by Duke Ellington; "Spybreak!" by Alex Gifford, performed by Propellerheads; "Wake Up" by Zack De La Rocha, Brad Wilk, Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, performed by Rage Against the Machine; "Rock Is Dead" by Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, performed by Marilyn Manson
Sound Design
Dane A. Davis
Sound Recordist
David Lee
Re-recording Mixers
John Reitz
Gregg Rudloff
David Campbell
Supervising Sound Editor
Dane A. Davis
Dialogue Editors
Charles Ritter
Susan Dudeck
Sound Effects Editors
Julia Evershade
Eric Lindemann
David Grimaldi
Tom O'Connell
John Roesch
Hilda Hodges
Mary Jo Lang
Carolyn Tapp
Supervising Editor:
Thom Brennan
Valerie Davidson
Aerial Co-ordinator
Terry Lee
Stunt Co-ordinator
Glenn Boswell
Kung Fu Choreographer
Yuen Woo-Ping
Hong Kong Kung Fu Co-ordinator
Carol Kim
Key Armourer
John Bowring
Helicopter Pilots
Greg Duncombe
Gary Ticehurst
Film Extract
Night of the Lepus (1972)
Keanu Reeves
Thomas Anderson, 'Neo'
Laurence Fishburne
Carrie-Anne Moss
Hugo Weaving
Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano
Gloria Foster
Marcus Chong
Julian Arahanga
Matt Doran
Belinda McClory
Anthony Ray Parker
Paul Goddard
Agent Brown
Robert Taylor
Agent Jones
David Aston
Marc Gray
Ada Nicodemou
Deni Gordon
Rowan Witt
spoon boy
Elenor Witt
Tamara Brown
Janaya Pender
Adryn White
Natalie Tjen
Bill Young
David O'Connor
FedEx man
Jeremy Ball
Fiona Johnson
woman in red
Harry Lawrence
old man
Steve Dodd
blind man
Luke Quinton
security guard
Lawrence Woodward
Michael Butcher
cop who captures Neo
Bernie Ledger
big cop
Robert Simper
Chris Scott
Nigel Harbach
parking cop
Martin Grelis
helicopter pilot
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
12,240 feet
136 minutes
(15 feet 7 frames cut)
Dolby digital/Digital dts sound/SDDS
Colour by
Atlab Australia
Prints by
Super35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011