The Matrix

Brand new science fiction, written for the screen, and made by a pair of comparatively unknown writer/directors (the Wachowskis' only previous effort was the decent, but hardly revelatory, low budget crime thriller Bound), starring Keanu Reeves of all people - yet it works. It works because the Wachowskis have such a confident vision, with special effects that stretch the limits of what's currently possible in CG, employed not just for a (genuine) "wow" factor but to serve the story, the ideas, and these filmmakers' actual artistry.

We open on a computer programmer named Thomas Anderson (Reeves), who spends his time in hacker chatrooms calling himself "Neo". He is eventually contacted by a mysterious woman who tells him about something called The Matrix. She's not the only one interested in this Neo fellow: a trio of sinister besuited agents, led by a wonderfully creepy Hugo Weaving, are out at all costs to prevent Anderson from finding out anything about The Matrix.

To reveal more would be criminal. But I don't want to come across as an instant fan of this film. Truth is, I found there to be almost too much "vision" on display, if you get my drift. Everything is so slick and so stylized that it often engulfs the story, and the whole left me feeling a little exhausted - not exhilarated, just exhausted. Meanwhile, Reeves remains wooden (though his dopiness actually engenders a few knowing laughs), and the seriousness of the script occasionally crosses over into self-parody. But I can truthfully say that I've never seen anything quite like The Matrix, and that's reason enough to recommend it.