What Cyberdreams May Come

What if everything we thought was real--these streets, this city, the year 1999--was merely a computer-generated program in our heads, a cyberdream of reality? That, in short, is the premise of The Matrix, which appears to be set in the present --that is where its hero, Neo (Keanu Reeves), thinks he is--but is actually set in 2199, when artificial-intelligence machines rule the world, and humans are merely the crops they grow to supply energy.

In Larry and Andy Wachowski's flamboyantly energetic action movie, Neo gets clued into the real deal: humans are just slaves to the machine. He's chosen by the rebel hacker Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to lead the Resistance against man's mechanical masters.

"The Matrix" throws a lot at you--mythic quests, pop Pirandello, kung-fu fight scenes and an encyclopedia of quotations from "Alien" to "Blade Runner" to Cocteau's "Orpheus." The Wachowskis, who made the bouncy lesbian crime comedy "Bound," have a true passion for pulp, a boldly dynamic visual style, an affection for cheesy acting and a gift for explosive action. With an arsenal of cool f/x at their disposal, they've come up with a dizzyingly enjoyable junk movie that has just enough on its mind to keep the pleasure from being a guilty one.