Wholly Trinity

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Police Officer: “I think we can handle one little girl. I sent two units. They’re bringing her down now.”
Agent Smith: “No, Lieutenant. Your men are already dead.”

[Of necessity, this article contains spoilers for both The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. If you haven’t seen these two films, you might not want to proceed. And how was the dark side of the moon?]

Few movies have been so influential as The Matrix, with its seamless combination of elements from Hong Kong action, anime, and science-fiction, to which the Wachowski brothers added a sprinkling of semi-original thoughts and some very cool sunglasses. One of the key pieces in the jigsaw is Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss – normally, supporting characters fall outside our realm here, but Trinity transcends the usual bounds imposed on such roles. Along with Lara Croft, she has become one of the most important action heroines of the past decade.

Trinity’s impact is immediate and striking; the opening sequence of the first movie features her character, welcoming us into the “anything is possible” universe of the Matrix. We see the introduction of bullet-time, the camera swinging around her as she freezes in midair, before delivering a devastating kick – an image subsequently aped in everything from box-office smashes (Shrek) to obscure arthouse films such as Takashi Miike’s City of Lost Souls. Her powers are superhuman, reflexes and agility far beyond normal; she apparently vanishes into a phone booth which is crushed by a juggernaut. As Neo would likely say: “Whoa…”

The middle is relatively quiet, Trinity taking a back seat to Morpheus as he gradually opens Neo’s eyes to the real world. But towards the end, she teams up with Neo – pulling rank on him without blinking – to rescue Morpheus, after he is captured by Agent Smith and the other Matrix guardians. The shoot-out in the lobby of that building has to rank as among the most berserk in cinematic history, with hero and heroine both kicking butt spectacularly. Chapter 29 on the DVD. :-) She goes on to pilot a helicopter, from which she leaps as it crashes into a building, then resurrects the dead hero with a kiss. Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum supporting character.

She also opens Reloaded, riding her motorcycle through the air before leaving it, mid-flight – the bike continues on as a guided missile (see pic at top). She then gets into a gun-battle with an Agent, both of them in free-fall from a building, which ends in Trinity being shot…and Neo waking with a start, wondering if this was just a dream, or a premonition of some sort. The two have now clearly formed a relationship, which is perhaps damaging, in that Trinity’s role is now closer to that of the usual subservient girlfriend.

However, she is still more than capable of independent action, such as when she, Morpheus and Neo seek the Keymaker, and are led to him by Persephone. This leads to a battle, first against the Twins, two dreadlocked, white brothers who can pop in and out of physical existence at will. Then, as if this wasn’t enought, there’s the highway chase, where Trinity whizzes into traffic at speeds best described as “not slow”, swerving across lanes and around oncoming vehicles as if they weren’t there. The movie ends in a reversal of the first film, Neo resurrecting Trinity with a kiss. Death, where is thy sting…

I was originally going to title this piece, “Trinity – the yin to Neo’s yang,” but in reality, they aren’t complementary opposites, it’s more a blending towards each other. Neo is far from your typical action hero, lacking muscles, three-day stubble and an impenetrable accent – he’s a computer programmer, f’heavens sake! Conversely, Trinity is female without being feminine: her skills lie in traditionally masculine areas such as motorbikes, fighting and technology. “I just thought…you were a guy,” says Neo, on discovering she was the one who hacked the IRS’s computers. “Most guys do,” is her calm response. The portrayal of Trinity deliberately and consciously avoids any sexuality at all, which perhaps partly explains why the sex scene in Reloaded feels jarringly out of place.

Her name resonates on several possible levels:

  • The trinity formed by herself, Neo and Morpheus
  • The Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Matrix was released over Easter Weekend, 1999…
  • The pagan trinity of the Triple Goddess, with womankind represented in three forms – maiden, mother and crone.
  • Trinity was where the first A-bomb was detonated in 1945, thereby starting the Atomic Age.

Note also that the room she is in at the start is number 303, while Neo’s is 101.
Which is actually the case, only the Wachowski brothers know, and they aren’t talking – this silence may be the reason why Reloaded has a more introverted feel, and IMHO doesn’t work as well. Dare I suggest, that if they loosened up and connected with their audience a bit more, the product might not resemble a Philosophy seminar quite as much.

Trinity’s feminine side does show through occasionally, however, most obviously in the nurturing way she initially cares for Neo. She brings him food, causing the traitorous Cypher to comment, “I don’t remember you ever bringing me dinner.” Trinity just rolls her eyes, but Cypher’s jealousy is perhaps a factor in pushing him over the edge into treachery and an alliance with the Agents.

This masculine/feminine contradiction is inherent in all female action heroines, and is perhaps part of the appeal. It is perhaps at the finale of The Matrix that it becomes most clear, as Trinity declares her romantic love for the dead Neo, then revives him, saying, “You can’t be dead… because I love you,” resurrecting him exactly as Prince Charming awoke his bride. It’s a complex, multi-level moment, bringing together the facets of a character which has been interpreted as everything from Mary Magdalene to Princess Leia. Let’s just hope Revolutions does not reveal she and Neo are siblings…

All this, and the ability to look very cool while kicking butt too. Credit to Carrie-Anne Moss, who not only brings depth to a character about whom we (so far) know very little – such as any real background – but who also broke a leg during training for Reloaded. She says, “While we were fighting, there wasn’t a moment that went by when I didn’t physically ache, for almost a year really,” and such commitment can only be admired. Where her career goes from here, no-one knows, but (especially given her current state, i.e. highly pregnant!) would suspect she might want to do a few costume dramas…

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