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The Matrix Explained: Take The Red Pill

The Matrix, directed by the Wachowski siblings, is a sci-fi film that has captivated audiences for decades with its intricate and thought-provoking story. 

This article will explore the film’s central themes, weighing this against the concept of self-belief and the oppressive nature of capitalist society.

I’ll delve into the story’s critical commentary on modern society by breaking down the film’s plot points and explaining what it all means.

The Duality of Neo / Thomas Anderson

The protagonist of the film, Neo, is initially portrayed as a computer hacker and outlaw. However, the audience is soon introduced to Thomas Anderson, the more subservient side of the central character.

This reflects the duality of a character torn between a need to conform, and a desire to seek answers.

This struggle drives the narrative forward, allowing the film to centre around Neo’s character development. Structurally, this is a well-worn technique, as Neo’s arc follows a very clear path of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey.’

neo in the matrix explained sleeping

Capitalist Oppression in The Matrix

The film explores the theme of capitalist oppression through Neo’s depiction as a subservient employee in a software development company.

His corporate manager’s line, “Every single employee understands that they are part of a whole, if they have a problem, the company has a problem” highlights how workers are often seen as mere commodities in a capitalist society, stripped of their individuality and reduced to units of production.

The film further emphasises the theme of oppression when Agent Smith, the main antagonist, attempts to crush any prospect of freedom for Neo, This is very neatly expressed through visual storytelling as Neo is literally silenced through manipulation of the Matrix.

neo from the matrix explained

The Matrix Explained: The One-Dimensional Man

The film portrays how capitalist society permeates our reality, hypnotising individuals with false consciousness and preventing them from realising their exploitation.

This aligns with the ideas of German-American Marxist Herbert Marcuse, who argued that capitalism creates the “One Dimensional Person,” motivated by false needs, consumption, and mass media.

This idea is explored through Cypher’s character, who chooses to betray his fellow crew members and re-enter The Matrix, preferring the comfort of the illusory world over the harsh reality of the real world.

The Wachowskis use this to express how some individuals may choose to remain ignorant and complacent within the confines of the capitalist system, even when presented with the truth of their exploitation.

Realisation and Resistance

When Neo meets Trinity and is led to Morpheus, the true nature of his existence is revealed.

Morpheus explains that The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world designed to control and exploit human bodies, reducing individuals to mere energy cells.

The motif of dreams in the film is expressed by the concept of Neo waking up from what he thought was his reality, which only further symbolises the theory of false consciousness.

Ultimately, Neo’s journey from a lack of self-belief to realising his true potential as a saviour of humanity serves as an allegory for individuals finding the courage to challenge oppressive systems and strive for freedom.

The Matrix raises questions about the nature of reality, the role of oppression in society, and the importance of self-belief in challenging oppressive systems.

the matrix cypher eats steak

The Matrix Explained: Final Thoughts

In conclusion, The Matrix is not just a sci-fi action film but a profound exploration of self-belief and capitalist oppression.

To have The Matrix explained even further through a deep dive into the movie’s relationship between character and theme, click the button below to watch my video essay on the screenplay.

single line drawing projector
Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.


He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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