Greatest Movie Series
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix (1999) | The Matrix Reloaded (2003) | The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
The Matrix (1999)
Film Plot Summary
The film opened with a computer screen displaying columns of greenish numbers, and the voices of two individuals (later revealed to be Cypher and Trinity), commenting that "Morpheus believes he is the One." The computer was not clean - it was traced, and mysterious black vinyl-clad heroine Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), on one of the computers, was being apprehended by police in Room 303 of run-down Heart O' the City Hotel. Two sinister agents with dark suits and sunglasses emerged from a black sedan outside the hotel: they were duplicating Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and Agent Brown (Paul Goddard), warning the police lieutenant that his men inside were "already dead." The prediction was accurate - Trinity felled the four officers with lightning quick action, and then phoned her Rebel leader-warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) for help. He suggested she get to "another exit" - a phone booth at Wells and Lake, toward which she was pursued over rooftops by the Agent. She escaped death from one of the frustrated Agents when he rammed an immense garbage truck into the phone booth. By answering the phone just in time, she was transported out. The Agents spoke about how they had an informant (Cypher), who had given them the name of their next "target" -- "The name is Neo."
In the year 1999, hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), with screen-name alias Neo, was asleep in front of his computer in his cluttered apartment, Room 101 - when the computer screen urged: "Wake up, Neo..." It further typed cryptic messages: "The Matrix has you..." and "Follow the white rabbit." He answered a knock on his door, where a friend named Choi (Marc Gray) (with girlfriend Dujour (Ada Nicodernou)) purchased an illegal computer disk from him for two grand. Neo told them: "You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're awake or dreaming?" As they left, they invited him to join them at a techno party, when he noticed a white rabbit tattoo on Dujour's left shoulder - and followed. At the gathering, he was personally greeted by Trinity (she was the one who had summoned him on his computer) - she warned that he was in danger, whispering into his ear: "They're watching you, Neo." She knew about his life in front of the computer, stating: "You're looking for him." She said his search was similar to her earlier quest for "an answer" -- "It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did." He responded with the question he was seeking an answer to: "What is the Matrix?" She told him: "The answer is out there, Neo. It's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to."
The next morning, "Mr. Anderson" was late for work at his software development company Metacortex in a downtown area, where he was a computer software programmer, and he was reprimanded by his boss Mr. Rhineheart (David Aston) for continued tardiness. In his cubicle, he received a FedEx envelope - inside was a ringing Nokia cellphone with Morpheus on the line: "I've been looking for you, Neo." Stating that they had "run out of time," Morpheus stressed that "they're coming for you and I don't know what they're going to do." Agents were already in his office ready to seize him -- and Neo was instructed by Morpheus on how to evade them by following specific directions. But as he fearfully tried to reach an outside scaffolding, he gave up and turned himself in. He was seized by the Agents, led by Agent Smith, and taken to a white room for questioning. They knew about his double life as a computer programmer, and as a hacker - "guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future. And one of them does not." They also understood that he had been contacted by Morpheus, considered by them "to be the most dangerous man alive." Agent Smith proposed a bargain: they would "wipe the slate clean" if Neo would cooperate in bringing "known terrorist" Morpheus to justice. Refusing to be scared and intimidated by them, Neo insisted on one phone call, but then found his mouth sealed shut and he was unable to speak. Smith continued: "You're going to help us, Mr. Anderson, whether you want to or not." A long, fiber-optic, insectoid-like, electronic wire tap, with tendrils and a tail, was placed on his stomach and burrowed into his belly-button. As he screamed, he awoke from a nightmare (?) in his apartment.
Morpheus phoned Neo and told him that the agents had underestimated him - otherwise he would have been killed. Morpheus then revealed his belief that Neo was actually a messianic One destined to save the world (proven right by film's end): "You are the One, Neo." He suggested meeting and instructed him to go to the Adams Street Bridge, where Trinity (with two others) picked him up in a black limousine. At gunpoint, Neo was warned: "Our way or the highway." Using a X-ray extraction device, the bug was removed from Neo's abdomen and deactivated, and he was driven to meet Morpheus in an upper floor of a dilapidated hotel. The bald-headed Morpheus asked if Neo felt like Alice in Wonderland, "tumbling down the rabbit hole" and "expecting to wake up." Neo expressed that he didn't believe in fate - he wanted to be in control of his life's direction. Morpheus knew that Neo had always felt that there was something "wrong with the world" but couldn't explain it: "It is this feeling that has brought you to me."
Morpheus explained about the Matrix: "The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even in this very room...It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth...That you are a slave, Neo." It was only a completely-simulated reality, computer program or facade created by malevolent, cyber-artificial-inelligent sentient beings that enslaved humans by imprisoning their minds and bodies. Morpheus continued: "Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind." He further explained that it was impossible to understand about the Matrix through words alone: "You have to see it for yourself." He offered: "This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back."
He gave Neo a choice - a contrast between what was real and not real by the choice of a pill (the pills, a red one and a blue one in his open hands were reflected in his glasses). If Neo chose to take a blue pill, "the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." If he chose the red pill, he would "stay in Wonderland," and he would be shown "how deep the rabbit hole goes." Neo chose the red pill to learn "the truth" and went down the "rabbit hole." Neo was led to an adjoining room filled with high-tech equipment, where Trinity, Cypher (Joe Pantoliano), and Apoc (Julian Arahanga) monitored computers. As Neo was hooked up, Cypher warned: "It means buckle your seat belt, Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye." Morpheus asked Neo if he had ever had a very realistic dream and couldn't awaken: "What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?" Neo reached out to touch a nearby mirror and his fingers disappeared beneath the rippling surface - when he pulled back, the taffy-like mirror gel began to cover his hand and extend up his arm toward his neck.
Suddenly, he was shown to be bald and naked, and immersed in a pod filled with reddish, slimy and gelatinous liquid - with his body connected to wires, so that his life force or energy could be sucked out. It was revealed that the life force of every other human being was also being drained out, within large harvesting "farms" of hundreds of tube-shaped pods built layer on layer in a tower, to provide the fuel for the Matrix's world. He broke free from the womb-like amnion (a thin elastic shroud) of the pod and stood up. An insect-like metallic machine dropped in front of him, and unplugged the main cable from the base of his skull (at the back of his neck), while the other connective hoses pulled away from the rest of his body. Neo was sucked downward into a waste disposal system to be eliminated, and spiraled down a long pipe to a pool of liquid waste, where he began to drown. Neo was reborn and rescued by Morpheus' hovercraft named the Nebuchadnezzar, when he was snatched from his watery grave by a descending cable and brought onboard. Morpheus greeted him: "Welcome to the real world," and he was surrounded by the craft's human crew, composed of "unplugged" free individuals, including Cypher, Trinity, Apoc, white-haired female Switch (Belinda McClory), operator and trainer Tank (Marcus Chong), Tank's big brother Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker), and teenaged Mouse (Matt Doran). Neo asked: "Am I dead?," and Morpheus responded: "Far from it." After years of neglect and disuse, Neo's atrophied muscles in his physical body needed to be strengthened with acupuncture-like needles.
Although Neo believed it was the year 1999, it was actually about 200 years later, around the year 2199, according to Morpheus. To further demonstrate the Matrix, Neo was shown the ship's core, where they broadcast their pirate signal and hacked into the Matrix. Neo was placed in an ectoskeleton chair, and a coaxial line was plugged into the jack at the back of his neck. He found himself in a blank, empty white space or room that Morpheus called the Construct - a computer program: ("It's our loading program. We can load anything, from clothing to equipment, weapons, training simulations, anything we need"). Neo was told he was looking at his 'residual self-image' - a mental projection of his digital self. The world of 1999 now only existed as "part of a neural interactive simulation that we call the Matrix." Neo had been living in a dream world. Morpheus showed Neo what the actual real world looked like through a remote-controlled TV -- it was a wasteland of decrepit buildings, scorched earth, and perpetual dark clouds/rain, dominated by artificial machines. The ever-present cloud cover was caused by humans who attempted to cut off the machines' supply of solar power. Neo was also informed that only a small number of free humans (similar to Morpheus, Trinity, Switch, etc. who had rebelled against the machines) survived and really lived in the real world - in a deep underground refuge city near the Earth's core called Zion - it was "the last human city."
In the early 21st century, it was a time of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the rise of machines ("a singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines"). The machines began to use humans (grown as crops in "endless fields", not born) as batteries to produce endless sources of energy (from their body heat and bioelectrical energy) to generate the Matrix: "The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this." Morpheus demonstrated by holding up a Duracell battery. Neo didn't want to believe "the truth" of what he was told, but Morpheus stressed that he was not allowed to "go back." Morpheus was concerned about humanity's fate: "As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free." He described how the Oracle prophesied the return of a Messianic figure who could save and liberate humanity -- and destroy the Matrix forever, and Morpheus believed that figure was Neo.
Neo was trained in various combat skills and martial arts via downloads (Jujitsu, Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Drunken Boxing, etc.) through his plug-in jack. Within a sparring program, in a virtual reality environment similar to the Construct, he also personally faced Morpheus for training in kung fu, and was shown how he possessed super-human abilities, could break some programming rules, and could bend others, i.e., the laws of physics. He realized he could free his mind and perform impossible feats of physicality (such as running up walls or leaping impossibly high and far, although in his first long-jump attempt from one building to another, he failed). Within another training program, Neo was cautioned by Morpheus that in the Matrix, most people, who thought they were in the real-world, were not ready to be "unplugged" - many were "so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it." He also warned that they were surrounded by potential enemies - agents who could take over the virtual body of anyone connected to the system: "If you are not one of us, you are one of them...Sentient programs. They can move in and out of any software still hard-wired to their system. That means that anyone we haven't unplugged is potentially an agent. Inside the Matrix, they are everyone and they are no one." The indestructible government agents - powerful sentient software programs, such as villainous lead Agent Smith, were described as "the gatekeepers - they are guarding all the doors. They are holding all the keys, which means, that sooner or later, someone is going to have to fight them." With his unique powers, Neo was promised that he wouldn't fail like the others in fighting the Sentient agents: "But where they have failed, you will succeed."
Suddenly, another ship sent a warning to the Nebuchadnezzar about a "search and destroy" attack of killing machines called Sentinels (nicknamed "Squiddys"), but Morpheus and his crew evaded detection. On the ship's control panel monitors, the Matrix appeared as downward columns of greenish, constantly-flowing code data. Cypher told Neo that he received quite a "mind-job" when told by Morpheus that he was the One to save the world. This duplicitous crew member, known as "Mr. Reagan" in the Matrix, met with Agent Smith at a fancy skyscraper restaurant for a juicy steak dinner, where he agreed to betray Morpheus (who had knowledge of the access codes to the Zion mainframe), in exchange for being permanently restored in the Matrix and employed in a power plant. Mr. Reagan requested afterwards that he didn't want to remember anything ("Ignorance is bliss") after the betrayal.
Morpheus announced to the crew that they should prepare to take Neo into the Matrix to see her -- the Oracle (Gloria Foster). As they entered from a hotel and tried to remain invisible, the plan was for the crew to be back in one hour. However, it was clear that they would encounter difficulty, when Cypher surreptitiously dropped a cellphone into a garbage can to alert the Agents. Neo and Morpheus took an elevator up to the apartment of the Oracle - she was 'very old' and had been around since the start of the Resistance movement. Morpheus explained to Neo: "She is a guide, Neo. She can help you to find the path." There were other young child Potentials in the outer living room, showing their gifted powers of levitating wooden alphabet blocks, bending spoons, etc. Neo met the Oracle in the kitchen next to a stove, baking cookies, and then uncharacteristically smoking a cigarette. She told him about how he might not be the One: "You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something" (but he ultimately proved to be the One). She told him: "Morpheus believes in you, Neo. And no one, not you, not even me, can convince him otherwise. He believes it so blindly, that he's going to sacrifice his life to save yours." She forecast: "You're going to have to make a choice" - between Morpheus' life and his own life ("One of you is going to die").
When they left the Oracle, they attempted to safely exit the Matrix through a hacked, hard-wired phone line. As they climbed the hotel stairs, Neo noticed a black cat cross his path -- and then saw a second identical black cat move the same way, and exclaimed: "Whoa, deja vu!" - Trinity interpreted it as a "glitch in the Matrix when they change something." It was a trap - the hard-line was cut (their exit through the 8th floor wall was bricked up), and the group was ambushed by a combination of Agents and SWAT team members. Mouse was killed, after which the others hid inside the main plumbing wall of the building, and crawled down its pipes. Morpheus chose to stay and fight hand-to-hand against Agent Smith, and was ultimately captured, allowing the others to escape through a basement grating into the street, and race to the "exit" of the Matrix at an old TV repair shop at Franklin and Erie. Cypher escaped first, and sabotaged everyone else's escape by firing a plasma rifle at Tank and Dozer who were at the controls of the Nebuchadnezzar. He then phoned Trinity and the others stuck in the Matrix, revealing his unrequited love for her and his desire to live in the Matrix: "I think the Matrix can be more real than this world." He then pulled the plug on Apoc and on Switch, killing them, and threatened to unplug Neo ("The One"). However, Tank revived (although hurt), killed traitorous Cypher, and brought back Trinity and Neo.
Wounded and restrained, Morpheus was chained to a chair in an office in a military-controlled, high-rise downtown building (within the Matrix) by Agent Smith, and hooked up to monitors by electrodes. Agent Smith threatened: "The future is our world, Morpheus. The future is our time." Morpheus was to be injected with virus-like serum to break down his system and 'hack into' his mind, to learn the access codes to Zion's mainframe computer - and destroy their cause. Agent Smith also ordered a Sentinel strike against Morpheus' hovercraft. The agent lectured Morpheus about how the era of humans, like the dinosaur, was ending, and that the human mammal was a "disease" - "a cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are the cure."
Rather than accept Tank's proposal to pull the plug on Morpheus, Trinity and Neo (following the Oracle's advice about making a choice) returned to the Matrix to rescue Morpheus. Neo vowed: "I believe I can bring him back." In the construct VR environment, Tank supplied them with an arsenal of guns, and then they entered the Matrix, wearing long trenchcoats, sunglasses, and black boots. After circumventing security with a shoot-out against guards in the high-rise's lobby in a spectacular action scene, they emerged on the building's rooftop by blasting themselves up the elevator shaft. There, Neo altered his perception so dramatically that he saw bullets in flight in order to dodge them. Tank uploaded a pilot-flying program into Trinity, so that she could take the controls of a helicopter - used for Morpheus' rescue. Neo also saved Trinity from certain death when the helicopter crashed. Morpheus was now assured that Neo was the One: "Do you believe it now, Trinity?" And he reminded Neo of his future destiny: "She (the Oracle) told you exactly what you needed to hear. That's all. Neo, sooner or later, you're gonna realize just as I did, there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." They planned to exit the Matrix at the subway station at State and Balboa, but Neo was the last to use the phone to depart the Matrix - and before he could leave, he was ambushed by Agent Smith. After a long kick-boxing struggle (involving some gravity-defying mid-air conflict and "bullet-time" acrobatics), Smith was seemingly defeated when run-over by a speeding subway train, but he reappeared with the arrival of the next train for further conflict.
Neo fled, with only 5-6 minutes of time before the Nebuchadnezzar would be forced to fire its emergency self-destruct system (EMP), to fight off a convergence attack of Sentinels. Morpheus knew he must stall until Neo emerged from the Matrix, although the Sentinels were beginning to break through the hovercraft's hull. Neo was instructed to find another Matrix exit at Wabash and Lake, but was furiously pursued by a group of agents, and shot dead, point-blank, by Agent Smith on the third floor of the Heart O' The City Hotel, outside Room 303. Smith emptied his revolver into Neo's chest. Monitors onboard the hovercraft reported Neo's death, but Trinity refused to believe it - she whispered to Neo: "I'm not afraid anymore. The Oracle told me that I would fall in love, and that that man, the man that I loved, would be the One. So you see, you can't be dead. You can't be, because I love you. You hear me? I love you." A kiss from Trinity's lips miraculously revived his heartbeat within the Matrix, and he stood up. He raised his arm, and the palm of his hand resisted more of the agents' bullets in mid-air. As the One, Neo finally understood that the bullets fired against him were not real - he saw the Matrix as it really was -- solely lines of downward-streaming computer code (or 'digital rain'). He then singlehandedly and effortlessly conquered Agent Smith's attack, in the film's climax. When the remainder of the agents fled, Neo returned to the Nebuchadnezzar as the EMP was deployed, producing a blast of white light to kill off the Sentinels. He again kissed Trinity.
In the film's short epilogue, a cursor moved on a black screen, as Neo made a telephone call from a phone booth in a busy part of the downtown area, within the Matrix. During the call, considered an anomaly, it was traced on a computer, but the screen froze mid-call: "SYSTEM FAILURE". In voice-over, Neo promised to save the people imprisoned in the Matrix: "I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you." He hung up the phone, stepped out of the booth, donned his sunglasses, and flew off straight up.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
The Matrix became best known for its revolutionary visual effects - airborne kung fu, 3-D freeze frame effects with a rotating or pivoting camera, and bullet-dodging. The film became a smash hit, featuring elaborate fighting and stunt sequences, as well as a convoluted screenplay that blurred the edge between reality and fantasy without losing the audience's grasp of the story.
Nominated for four Academy Awards (with four wins): Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing. While The Matrix won all four Oscar nominations, the box-office hit sequels Reloaded and Revolutions weren't nominated for anything.
With an initial production budget of $65 million, the film grossed $171 million (domestic) and $460 million (worldwide).
Set-pieces: Neo's martial-arts competition against Morpheus, Neo's and Trinity's rescue of Morpheus, including a shootout in the lobby against security guards and a helicopter assault (with dodging of bullets in slow-motion "bullet time") on the top of a government building, and the climactic subway station and hallway conflicts with Agent Smith and other agents, while Sentinels attacked the ship's hull.
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