100 Greatest Scenes Number 8: “Bullet Time”

Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

When The Matrix exploded onto screens it made movie history and influenced a lot of future movies in the process. It was like nothing we had seen before, with the striking imagery, the dark greens and stark environments and the story which took at least two watches to truly get your head around. Add to that the fact that it had awesome martial arts, cool action sequences and made Keanu Reeves bad-ass again. The longest and biggest legacy of The Matrix could well be “Bullet Time.”

Greatest Scene Number 8: The Matrix – “Bullet Time”

“Bullet Time” was a phrase coined after The Matrix used it iconically in this scene. It means seeing things from a “slowed-down” perspective and although the bullet-dodging by Reeves’ Neo is the most famous use, The Wachowski siblings actually use it a couple of times in this scene.

I chose the video above because it is used first and very briefly when the lift explodes. We see the creeping of the fire and the door slowly tumble in the air, until eventually everything is sped-up again.

“Bullet Time was used here too”

It is then used most effectively on the roof of the building. We see what “bullet time” looks like from a “normal” perspective when The Agent dodges Neo’s barrage. It is then that we get the most famous part, when the bullets fly and time seems to slow-down.

It isn’t just the slow movement of the bullets which makes this scene look so cool. It is also the ripples they make through the air, highlighting the path of each individual bullet. Add to that the fact that the camera spins 360 degrees around Reeves as he bends in what seems an unnatural way to dodge the projectiles. Finally, the sequence ends with a bullet straight down the lens of the camera.

This scene also managed to make Keanu Reeves look bad-ass

One more use, very briefly, is when the Agent is finally killed by Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity. By this point, the impact of the scene is felt, not just for how cool and impressive it makes the character of Neo but for Hollywood movies and even video games. Many films, from Scary Movie through to anything John Woo directs, will either directly parody or heavily use “Bullet Time” while video games like Max Payne made it a clear selling point of the franchise. It is The Matrix where it still feels the most memorable and effective though.

Overall, The Matrix changed a lot of things in movies but one aspect it introduced was “Bullet Time.” Used effectively here, it shocked and wowed audiences when it was first seen and then was heavily copied thereafter. Here is where it really began and arguably, has been used the most effectively.

One more very cool use later too

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