Thirteenth Floor

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13thfloor.gif

Question reality.

1999

Genres:
Sci-Fi, Mystery, Film Noir

Starring:
Craig Bierko, Gretchen Moll, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent D'Onfrio

Summary:
Hannon Fuller (Mueller-Stahl) is a brilliant old computer programmer who has miraculously recreated Los Angeles circa 1937 in his new virtual reality. As soon as he begins to unravel a shocking truth about his creation, he is brutally murdered. His friend and colleague Douglas Hall (Bierko) becomes the main suspect in the ensuing murder investigation. Desperate to clear his name and discover the mystery behind Fuller's LA world, Hall immerses himself in the characters and setting of Fuller's virtual reality.

The plot thickens with the appearance of Jane (Moll), a woman who claims to be the daughter of Fuller and knows much about his research. With her help and that of his friend (D'Onfrio), Hall's perceptions of reality shatter as he uncovers the horrifying truth.

Response:
When I first went to see this movie, I thought it was just a cheap rip-off of The Matrix. If I had stopped to think about it, I would have realized that 13th Floor was made around the same time, if not before that blockbuster movie. So despite similar "reality is not what is seems" themes, the two movies each have their own styles and perks.

13th Floor is a beautifully crafted movie that alternates between the modern high-tech world and 1937 Los Angeles. The flavour of each setting is distinct and realistic. The multiple layers of characters and worlds gets a bit much towards the end, but anyone with a bit of intelligence should be able to keep track after the final revelation is given.

Bierko is engaging as the confused but persistent Hall. I'm so used to him playing baddies that it was refreshing to see him play a good guy for a change (although now that I think about it, he really did play a baddie in this movie too). Gretchen Moll played her classy and enigmatic lady wonderfully, evoking a timeless elegance that worked well in all the worlds in which she existed. Bierko, D'Onfrio, and Moll all did wonderfully playing what were essentially different characters in the same body. I have to admit that I got some weird kick out of seeing Moll go from the epitome of elegance to a gum-cracking check-out girl. Of course, I didn't really understand it at the time, but I still got a kick out of it.

And that brings me to the final perk of 13th Floor. Like the murder mystery it is at heart, the ending is still surprising despite the fact that the audience knows it's going to be. Similar to Dark City, 13th Floor combines the feel of a bygone era with pure science fiction. The result is unique, and the movie is well worth watching.

Point Blank:
Watch it with Dark City and have a sci-fi/noir/mystery night.