"No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." says Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the earnest, elegant John the Baptist figure in the Wachowski brothers' allegorical science fiction masterpiece. Well, we'll give it a shot.
He's talking to Neo (Keanu Reeves), a blank-faced computer whizz who's about to go through the looking glass - out of the late 20th century world as he knows it, into the real, post-apocalyptic "desert of the real".
It's a reality where robots rule the planet and keep humans plugged into a virtual reality matrix, living in a dream world, while their energy fuels the machines.
Morpheus thinks Neo is The One, the messiah figure who will destroy the Matrix and resurrect humanity. Fellow freedom fighter Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is convinced too. But Neo isn't certain, and will have to face the pernicious, powerful, Matrix meanie Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) to find out.
At first viewing, the action sequences stun, but there's more to this than the groundbreaking "bullet time" photography, or the adolescent allure of flash, black clothes and big, black guns.
Sure, "The Matrix" is almost untenably cool, but beneath the sheen there's substance. The story's a potent mix of buddhism, Greek mythology, and - predominantly - the Christian gospel.
The image of a superficial existence, where ignorant people thrive by blocking out a troublesome reality, is potent for a Western society drowning in wealth while the rest of the world suffers.
The performances, too, wow. Admittedly Reeves is gifted the perfect role - he has to look good while hitting things - but Moss is charismatic, clever and sexy, while Fishburne is monumental.
Nestling next to "The Terminator" and "Metropolis", this is one the finest sci-fi flicks ever made.
What is "The Matrix"? It's genius. And yes, we admit, you do have to see it for yourself.
The next instalment, "The Matrix Reloaded", opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday 21st May 2003.