The Matrix took the well-worn science fiction idea of virtual reality, added supercharged Hollywood gloss and a striking visual style and stole The Phantom Menace‘s thunder as the must-see movie of the summer of 1999. Laced with Star Wars-like Eastern mysticism, and featuring thrilling martial arts action choreographed by Hong Kong action director Yuen Woo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), The Matrix restored Keanu Reeves to genre stardom following virtual reality dud Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and made a star of Carrie-Anne Moss, who followed this with the challenging perception twister Memento (2000). Helping the film stand out from rivals Dark City (1998) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999) was the introduction of the celebrated “bullet time” visual effects, though otherwise the war-against-the-machines story, hard-hitting style and kinetic set-pieces such as the corporate lobby shoot-out lean heavily on Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Elsewhere the influence of John Woo, from the ultra-cool near real-world SF of Face/Off (1997) to the raincoats and sunglasses look of bullet-ballet A Better Tomorrow, is clearly in evidence. The set-up isn’t without its absurdities, though–quite why super-intelligent machines bother to use humans as batteries instead of something more docile like cows, for example, is never explained, nor is how they expect these living batteries to produce more energy than it takes to maintain them. The Matrix is nevertheless exhilarating high-octane entertainment, although as the first part of a trilogy it perhaps inevitably doesn’t have a proper ending.