Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Mary Alice, Collin Chou, Lambert Wilson, Ian Bliss and Bruce Spense.

Either you get the Matrix or you don't. The first two films in the Wachowski Brothers' ambitious trilogy were not dependent on the audience understanding the cod-philosophy and alternative worldview behind the action, they could be enjoyed as futuristic adventure films, complete with incredible set pieces, awesome fight scenes and fabulously fetishistic outfits. 'The Matrix Revolutions' however, demands more from viewers than simple, passive enjoyment of spectacle. While there is less philosophising and more happening in this third and final part, the Wachowskis contrarily expect you to understand more - but leave you hanging.

If you're not familiar with the first two films, don't bother with this one as 'Revolutions' picks up exactly - no recaps - where 'Reloaded' left off. Neo (Reeves) lies unconscious aboard a rebel ship after stopping the Sentinels. The ever-faithful Trinity (Moss) is beside him, with the Agent Smith-infected Bane (Bliss), the only survivor from the EMP attack, also insensible across the way.

While Neo remains in a coma he's trapped in a limbo - Mobil Ave - between the Matrix and human worlds and which is controlled by the Merovingian (Wilson). To release him, Morpheus (Fishburne), Seraph (Chou) and Trinity have to fight their way to the French-cussing information trader and his superbly corseted wife Persephone (Bellucci). As the events of 'Reloaded' showed, Agent Smith (Weaving) is now independent of the Matrix, his powers increasing in tandem with Neo's as he infiltrates the real world.

Meanwhile, time is running out for the underground city of Zion as its citizens arm themselves and prepare for the machine attack. One ship, piloted by Niobe (Pinkett Smith), returns to help defend Zion while Neo and Trinity - with a dangerous stowaway - take the other to fulfil his destiny in Machine City.

It's a round-up of the usual suspects as the Oracle returns in a different but still enigmatic format (a neat way of explaining away Gloria Forster's death and her replacement with Mary Alice), and characters briefly introduced in 'Reloaded' being fleshed out. Of the few new faces, the only standout is the creepy Trainman (Spence), a semi-mystical controller of passage between the worlds.

This is a much darker beast than either of the first two films. There's very little light relief, unless accidentally (Reeves passionless protestations of love a case in point) and the characters stumble more than ever under the weight of the terse but 'profound' dialogue. Even Hugo Weaving's hammed-up Agent Smith barely raises a chuckle.

'Revolutions' is set more amidst the grime of Zion than the sleek surface of the Matrix, 'Reloaded' having set the scene for when the rebellious underdogs take on the Machine Empire. And the centrepiece battle scene is breathtaking. FX genius John Gaeta, creator of the 'Bullet Time' and the 'Burly Brawl' setpieces, has once again excelled himself in bringing the battle, Machine City and the 'Super Burly Brawl' - the final rain-soaked, Superman-like showdown between Neo and Agent Smith - to the screen. It's all very impressive but doesn't make up for an unsatisfying finale.

After all the action and deliberation, there's no closure and, like the end of the first two films, viewers are left with questions to be answered and answers questioned. Overrated, maybe, or just over-hyped? Never mind man vs machine - this is a battle that will rage far beyond the cinema doors.

Caroline Hennessy