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One of the biggest films of 1999, at the time The Matrix was also one of the most exciting films I’d seen in a while. Featuring a stunning blend of action and effects, The Matrix was a breath of fresh air and a far better film than a certain George Lucas production that was released around the same time.

Matrix, The
Feature
The film centres on Thomas Anderson, by day a program writer for a respectable software company. However, Anderson has another identity, that of the hacker Neo, who spends all of his spare time in search of the answer to one question: what is the Matrix? Neo soon learns the disturbing truth—that the world he lives in is nothing more than a computer simulation, designed by all-powerful machines to imprison and enslave mankind. Freed from this prison by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Neo must learn to escape the shackles of his old life and start on the path towards his destiny as ‘The One’. On the whole the acting is very good, with even Keanu ‘Whoa’ Reeves putting in a respectable performace as Neo. Larry Fishburne is as good as ever as Morpheus; the guy just oozes screen presence. Hugo Weaving is excellent as Agent Smith (a significantly different character to the one he played in Pricilla Queen of the Desert) and they even managed to sneak in a few Australian ex-soap stars for good measure (must be a requirement of filming in Oz).

Video
The quality of the 2.35:1 anamorphic video is very good throughout; a great example of what the DVD format can deliver. There are better transfers around now, but at the time of release The Matrix stood at the top of the pile. Some complain that the film has a greenish tint to it, but this is intentional and signifies the difference between the real world and the Matrix. The visual style of the film is also excellent; with the many fight sequences being fantastically choreographed. The brilliant 'bullet time' effect, in which time appears to slow down, is as impressive here as it was on the big screen. The design of the future world is also great, with the various machines looking suitably nasty and the scale of the Matrix itself is simply awe-inspiring.

Matrix, The
Audio
Sound too, is very well done. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track really puts you in the middle of those gunfights and martial arts battles, although the dialogue is sometimes a bit quiet. The full soundfield is used to great effect; just check out the lobby battle for proof of that. You can hear the bullets whistle past your head, the sound of concrete braking and hitting the floor, all to the tune of the Propellerheads fantastic 'Spy Break'. The soundtrack also features tracks from Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine and Rob Zombie among others, while Don Davis’ score fits the tone of the film very well.

Extras
The disc is packed with a fair amount of extras, featuring some very nice animated menus, behind the scenes and special effects documentaries, cast and crew biographies, an isolated musical score with commentary, a cast and crew audio commentary and some DVD-Rom content. The special effects documentaries are great and it’s really interesting to see how they accomplished the bullet time and kung-fu effects.

Matrix, The
Overall
This is a great sci-fi action movie with a couple of bright ideas. The mind-blowing special effects are of course a big part of the film, but there is an underlying message that with enough self-belief, you can accomplish anything. This is a definite cut above the usual popcorn movies. Recommended for the lobby scene alone—'Guns. Lots of guns.' Excellent.

*Note*
This region four disc is very similar to the region two release, but with a couple of minor head butts intact. Quite why these scenes were cut from the UK release in beyond me (you can bet it had something to do with obtaining a lower rating to maximise profit though). It seems that it is perfectly ok for the characters to gun down hoards of innocent security guards, but when it comes to nutting someone the BBFC get right on their high horse (even though the region two edition of The Fifth Element features a nice Glasgow kiss, not bad for a PG film). It makes a total mockery of our ratings system in my opinion. Still, that whinge aside this is a great disc, which also improves over the region two edition. Because the film is unedited the commentary and isolated score tracks have been left intact, which adds to the overall value of the package.


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