Director: Andy & Larry Wachowski
Wow. What a great flick. Yeah, sure, it looked pretty cool when we saw the first glimpses of that bullet-time effect during the Superbowl way back when, but C'mon! It had Keanu Reeves in it fer fuck's sake! Eventually I did go see it in the theater, and was thoroughly surprised to walk out of there knowing this was a truly excellent film (and a sci-fi one at that). Great characters (even Keanu, he plays the clueless angle almost to a fault), innovative effects and photography, and a great fuckin story. You can't accuse this film of style over substance, it's got plenty of both.
Thomas Anderson is living a double life. By day he works for a very respectable software company (or so they say), and in his spare time is a computer programmer of a somewhat deviant nature, going by the handle Neo. But things don't exactly jive, and he is driven to find one of the world's most notorious hackers who goes by the name of Morpheus in hopes to get some answers. Then his life changes literally overnight as he slips into the role of Alice, traveling into a Wonderland that is both amazing and horrifying in its ramifications. With an entirely new reality to contend with, Neo must also face choices that could end with catastrophic results for humankind (well, what's left of it).
This is everything a great, action-packed movie should be, regardless of the genre. It's a good story, great transitions, and the actors involved (minus Keanu, I still think he's a chode) all really shine. Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Joe Pantoliano as Cypher, and the rest. But I gotta say much kudos to the superior portrayal of the bland yet hypnotic Hugo Weaving in the role of Agent Smith. As for the sequels, well, that's a different story. I'm writing this before seeing Reloaded, and will state my reservations beforehand:
#1 Neo is no longer the clueless dude. Can Keanu pull it off?
#2 The originality and intrigue of the first film has already been played out. As much as I love to see the continuation of the storyline, I fear it will mostly result in an action-packed extravaganza that plays out like a bad video game. I can only hope the Wachowski brothers make the next two films not only visually spectacular (which is pretty much a given), but provide a decent story as well.
Great Scenes: Sure, all the bullet-time stuff is great, and the brief glimpses we get of the squid-like Sentinels are killer, but after seeing this movie how many times over, my favorite scene is the initial interrogation Mr. Anderson goes through, particularly the singular reaction of Agent Smith after getting flipped off. The Harvester sequence is pretty damn cool, as well.
DVD Notes: Spectacular single DVD put out by Warner Bros. Quite a few documentaries scattered throughout, some which are basically untitled, simply displayed under the guise of a red pill (including a cool one under the Crew Filmography for the Wachowski brothers), and with the "white rabbit" option as you view the movie. A commentary track with Carrie-Anne Moss, Gaeta the Visual Effects Supervisor, and Staenberg the Editor (the bros. are suspiciously absent), and a music-only track with composer Davis.
Also included is a pretty extensive built-in website, which you can connect to exterior links while online. But the embedded site includes a bunch of great insight into the film, from the history of kung fu, science fiction, and comic books in the cinema to several reviews of the film to a decent portrayal of the script and storyboard on a single screen (very cool presentation, some scenes are missing, others the original pen & ink, and some developed in full color). There's some other tidbits that don't work on a Mac, so fuck'em. Overall a pretty jam-packed DVD, with loads of great info and style.