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The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction film written and directed by The Wachowskis, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. It depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Computer programmer “Neo” learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the “dream world”.
The Matrix is known for popularizing a visual effect known as “bullet time”, in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera’s viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed. The film is an example of the cyberpunk science fiction genre. It contains numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas, and prominently pays homage to works such as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Wachowskis’ approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation and martial arts films, and the film’s use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions.
The Matrix was first released in the United States on March 31, 1999, and grossed over $460 million worldwide. It was generally well-received by critics, and won four Academy Awards as well as other accolades including BAFTA Awards and Saturn Awards. Reviewers praised The Matrix for its innovative visual effects, cinematography and its entertainment. The film’s premise was both criticized for being derivative of earlier science fiction works, and praised for being intriguing. The action also polarized critics, some describing it as impressive, but others dismissing it as a trite distraction from an interesting premise.
The film has since appeared in lists of the greatest science fiction films, and in 2012, was added to the National Film Registry for preservation. The success of the film led to the release of two feature film sequels, both written and directed by the Wachowskis: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The Matrix franchise was further expanded through the production of comic books, video games and animated short films in which the Wachowskis were heavily involved
Thomas Anderson is a computer programmer living a double life under the hacker alias “Neo”. He believes something is wrong with the world and is puzzled by repeated online encounters with the cryptic phrase “the Matrix”. Trinity contacts him, saying that a man named Morpheus can explain its meaning; however, the Agents, led by Agent Smith, apprehend Neo at his office. Undeterred, Neo meets Morpheus, who offers him a choice between a red pill that will allow him to learn the truth about the Matrix, and a blue pill that will return him to his old life. Swallowing the red pill, Neo’s reality disintegrates and he awakens, naked and weak, in a liquid-filled pod, finding himself one of countless people connected by cables to an elaborate electrical system. He is rescued and brought aboard Morpheus’s hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar.
Morpheus explains that, in the 21st century, humans waged a war against intelligent machines that they had created. When humans blocked the machines’ access to solar energy, the machines began to harvest the humans’ bioelectricity for power. The Matrix is a shared simulation of the world as it was in 1999 in which the minds of the harvested humans are trapped and pacified; Neo has been living in it since birth. Morpheus and his crew belong to a group of rebels who hack into the Matrix and “unplug” enslaved humans, recruiting them as rebels. The rebels’ understanding of the true nature of the simulated reality allows them to bend its physical laws, granting them superhuman abilities. Neo is warned that fatal injuries within the Matrix will also kill one’s physical body, and that the Agents he encountered are powerful sentient programs that eliminate threats to the system. Neo’s skill during virtual combat training lends credence to Morpheus’s belief that Neo is “the One”, a man prophesied to lead the insurrection of enslaved humans against the machines.
The group enters the Matrix to visit the Oracle, a prophet who predicted the emergence of the One. She implies that Neo is not the One, and warns Neo that he will soon have to choose between his life and the life of Morpheus. Before they can leave the Matrix, the group is ambushed by Agents and tactical police. Morpheus allows himself to be captured so that Neo and the crew can escape. However, their getaway is hindered by Cypher, a crew member who betrayed Morph