Tag Archives: 1999

The Matrix (1999)

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss

I don’t know which world I’d prefer to live in, but if I could be as badass as Trinity, I don’t think it would be a question.

When Thomas Anderson (Reeves) comes to learn the world in which he lives is a mere virtual reality, he must make a choice. Would he rather forget this information and carrying on working his mundane office job, or rather be born again in the ‘real’ world and help defeat The Matrix?

The year is actually closer to 2199 and a massive artificial intelligence system called The Matrix has taken over, surviving by using human bodies for energy and throwing them away once they’ve been rinsed. Not only that but The Matrix has tapped into the minds of everyone, creating an illusion that they’re living a normal life. Morpheus (Fishburne), the leader of the first group of freedom fighters, believes Neo is “The One” who can crack The Matrix bringing people to both physical and psychological freedom.

Even after 13 years, The Matrix is still one of the best sci-fi films I have seen. The visuals are simply stunning and for a film like this to come out back then, most certainly paved the way for more challenging and daring films. Along with the special effects and complex fight scenes, which were all shot beautifully and with a very specific goal in mind (to blow your mind), the characters were brilliant.

Neo is a great protagonist. Just a normal guy given the chance to be something amazing, and his character development is fantastic to watch. While Reeves isn’t the best actor, I don’t know of anyone else who would have been suited to this part. He’s not all that terrible as Neo and to be honest, anyone pitted alongside Fishburne is going to be questioned in terms of acting. His boy-next-door look also works to make him more relatable as a character, a great quality to have when part of the message is about becoming lost amongst the masses. Fishburne was excellent as the mysterious and enticing Morpheus, and those glasses, well they’re just the best accessory. Hugo Weaving was fantastic as Agent Smith too, he created this character that I truly despised. In fact everyone did that well. They all made you feel something for their characters and it was this investment that made them become so interesting and three dimensional.

The only thing I can really say is that the concept is quite heavy first time around. It might even take a second watch to understand it fully. You can get a bit lost and caught up in the excitement too and this distraction might make you think why all of this is even happening half way through the film. If you do understand it and keep up though, it’s awesome.

The Matrix is very intelligently written and aesthetically pleasing. While religious or political meanings can be drawn from the script, taking it how it is, as a great sci-fi film, should be enough to just sit down and watch it. It will make you think and maybe even question a few things, but all in all, there’s no doubt that you’ll be thinking about The Matrix for some time to come.

Star rating: 8.5/10

Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

Running time 136 minutes.

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Fight Club (1999)

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Cast:  Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter

Fight Club

Edward Norton and Brad Pitt make for one of the best male duo onscreen leads ever.

When an unnamed, white collar, everyday man (Norton) finds himself at a dead end in life, he meets soap maker Tyler Durden (Pitt) and sparks up a friendship. The two create an organisation whereby they can relieve their aggressions in life and feel alive once again, Fight Club.

As more members join, Fight Club morphs into Project Mayhem and the organisation quickly spreads nationwide. Along with this, a dissolute women called Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) is bounced between both men, creating another dimension to the relationships in the film.

Fight Club is an extraordinary and revolutionary film, and one of my all time favourites.

There is so much I love about the film, it’s stylistic, smart, original and captivating. It swiftly moves along in pace and the narrative device is a brilliant touch, as is the script which is packed with fantastic dialogue and clever witticisms. The actors are quite simply superb, Norton and Pitt both bounce off each other’s energy and their chemistry is tight, just the way it needed to be. This is one of Norton’s best performances and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in Pitt’s role, the personality and aura of Durden that he captures is spot on. Carter is perfectly cast as chaotic and slightly off-balanced Marla and her performance throughout was magnetising to watch, I often think she would be like this in real life.

I can’t really find any faults with the film, although when Fight Club first hit theatres it received a lot of mixed reviews. Many comparisons were drawn between this and A Clockwork Orange due to its heavy use of violence and the worry that it can be seen to glorify it. If any acts of violence had followed the release of the film it would have undoubtedly been blamed on the content, just like it was 30 years prior to this with A Clockwork Orange. Both of the films were also based on books but to me, the most important comparison drawn would be that they both did something to cinema. They changed it for the better.

After watching Fight Club my levels of expectation regarding originality, concept and overall cinematography in film was raised. Both films were simply inspiring and different to others at the times of their release, each having a huge impact on society whether it was deemed positive or negative by the critics.

David Fincher directs the film, and what a fantastic piece of art he has created. Previously having directed Se7en and The Game, people were excited to see his artistic talents flare in another film. He confessed that he mixed the two styles of these films together and from it created Fight Club. From the second it starts the style is apparent, drained colours, clever camera positions and swift editing. Everything about the film is smart and enticing, even in the scenes that are unsettling you can’t help but watch.

The whole concept of this film is brilliant. It’s not just about the fighting as there is so much more that this film offers. I fully recommend it.

Star rating: 10/10

Directed by David Fincher.

Running time 139 minutes.

Magnolia (1999)

“This was not just a matter of chance. These strange things happen all the time.”

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards and Julianne Moore

Magnolia

Magnolia is a film that often splits an audience. Some people don’t like it as it is quite pretentious in places, yet along with these negative reviews it has received much critical acclaim too.

Magnolia carefully and intricately interweaves the lives of several different people on a normal day in the San Fernando Valley. Each character is looking for happiness, forgiveness or meaning in their life and it just so happens they coincidentally find peace with themselves after a day of random events.

One of the first things I noticed about the film was the incredible use of music which is employed superbly in every scene. While it has a great soundtrack, Aimee Mann was responsible for the score which brought out real emotion and passion in most of the scenes. It just shows how powerful music can truly be, and this film is a prime example of it being used to its fullest.

The cast is brimming with talented actors, and with so many different storylines to keep a track of, they each made their own significant and memorable. This is very important as with so many strands, the audience need to stay engaged with each for when it’s left and then later revisited. The film had me gripped throughout due to the attention and levels of detail within each story, this was another of the main positives I found about the film. The script is fantastic and each story is as powerful as the next, seducing the audience and making it very magnetising to watch.

We see star performances from Jeremy Blackman, Melinda Dillon, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, and Melora Walters, one of the best collaborative casts I have seen in film. While they each undoubtedly give fantastic performances, Cruise showed me a character that I haven’t seen from him before, nor was I expecting. He manages to dig deep and express his character, Frank T.J. Mackey, in a light that I haven’t seen him do and it was a pleasant surprise. Reilly and Walters were involved in another story that I loved watching, they had a real chemistry and this random love link was nice to see unfold. I think they both did great, though you can say that of any of the main characters.

Blackman played a boy-genius who faced pressure from his father to win every games show contest he was entered in, so he could capitalise off his son’s success, he gave a great performance and especially so for a child. Hall was the game contestant show host, dying of cancer, he gave a very helpless yet touching performance. Macy was a grown boy genius who had his 15 minutes of fame after beating the odds of the games show in the sixties, though now he is struggling with loneliness after being cast aside as a weirdo. Moore was great as a super-bitch and confused wife, her husband is dying of a terminal illness though she can’t handle the guilt she has for cheating on him for years beforehand. Robards played said husband and although he spent the whole film in a bed, he pulled off a strong performance. Hoffman was great as his male nurse too, and even though he cried a lot, he still made it work.

I did have problems with Magnolia though, and they are not easy to overlook. Firstly with all of the biblical references – it seemed that the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, was pushing for something more than what the film was, making it a bit pretentious and in over its head. Some scenes are absurd too, yet while all of this illogicality and randomness demonstrate the willingness that Anderson had for the film to actually mean something more, it gets so obvious in places it seems desperate. It also raises confusion with the end message. The coincidence-not-coincidence type of logic leaves the message of the film open for interpretation but with no hints or coherency – does the film even know what it’s trying to say?

Regardless of this, Magnolia is a moving film that hinges on the narratives and interpersonal connections that the characters have with each other, but that’s it. It fails in being anything more and the desperate need for it to be a film with a profound and life-changing message only opens it for more criticism. The characters were great, as was the score, the editing and the interweaving stories, but the push for it to be something more doesn’t place it in the category of a modern classic, but just a wannabe.

Star rating:  7.5/10

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Running time 188 minutes.

American Beauty (1999)

Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.”

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening and Thora Birch

American Beauty

Most films tend to target American suburbia. With its paper-thin credibility and highly stereotypical sense of living, it’s easy to see why. American Beauty takes a shot at it, and manages to ruin the façade with superb results.

The film follows Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) in his last year of life. He’s a middle aged magazine writer who is going through a midlife crisis, though living in the seemingly idyllic American suburbs. His wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is equally unhappy. Her compulsive neatness and house-proud attitude mean she focuses more on her job and the materialistic things in her life, rather than making an effort within her family. Jane (Thora Birch) is Lester and Carolyn’s daughter. She is very much an outcast at school yet finds a friend in the beautiful Angela (Mena Suvari), who is always bragging about the attention she gets from boys.

After performing at a cheerleading rally, Lester becomes infatuated with Angela. This doesn’t help Jane’s state of mind; she’s insecure and feels that she doesn’t belong anywhere, feeling the most isolated in her home. She manages to find comfort in the next-door neighbours’ son, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). He too comes from a broken home, yet concentrates his time on finding a non-conventional sense of beauty in the world through the lens of his camcorder. They bond over their broken families and come to realise they are soul mates.

All the characters are well portrayed. The most convincing has to be Spacey’s near-perfect performance as Lester. His sarcasm, facial expressions and pure bluntness all add to the depth of his character, and he really captures the angst of Lester’s midlife crisis superbly. Battling with his sexual feelings towards teenager Angela, a new found rebellion and a broken marriage, you start to feel sorry for Lester who seems lost on his road to happiness, yet he is the one who actually seems to be the closest at reaching it.

American Beauty shows you that you can find beauty in anything. Not only within the film, which is shot with a beautiful, vivid imagery, but also around you in everyday life. There is a simple scene with a plastic bag for instance, and it’s amazing how well the message is transcribed to the audience with this.

American Beauty is both Sam Mendes’ film debut as a director, and Alan Ball’s debut as a writer, and I haven’t seen a greater introduction into film as of yet. The cinematography, characters, music and editing secured this film as one of the best of 1999 and its no surprise to me that it won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Spacey), Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

Star rating:   8.5/10

Directed by Sam Mendes.

Running time 122 minutes.