Computer scientist Hannon Fuller has discovered something extremely important. He's about to tell the discovery to his colleague, Douglas Hall, but knowing someone is after him, the old man leaves a letter in the computer generated parallel world his company has created (which looks like the 30's with seemingly real people with real emotions). Fuller is murdered in our real world the same night, and his colleague is suspected. Douglas discovers a bloody shirt in his bathroom and he cannot recall what he was doing the night Fuller was murdered. He logs into the system in order to find the letter, but has to confront the unexpected. The truth is harsher than he could ever imagine...Written by
As the last millennium comes to a close and a new one opens, the science fiction genre seems to have latched onto a brand new narrative format - the cyber/techno thriller, wherein characters are free to wander in and out of virtual reality worlds and are even forced to call into question the validity of the world we have hitherto smugly referred to as "reality."
In 1999 alone, this theme has been explored in "The Matrix", "eXistenZ" and "The Thirteenth Floor." Actually, of the three, this is probably the most intriguing, intelligent and involving, successfully combining the elements of a whodunit with a clever sci-fi tale of a group of characters who drift in and out of a simulated version of Los Angeles in 1937. The plot, though complex, is spun out with coherence and ever-increasing clarity as the layers of information are slowly peeled back to reveal the larger picture. The filmmakers manage to create a sense of unbalance in the audience as we and the characters become more and more unclear as to what is reality and what is a simulation. Because the writers never lose their way, the result is a work of considerable mystery and intrigue.
In terms of art direction and cinematography, the film is a total triumph. The Los Angeles of 1937 the moviemakers have visualized on screen actually has a slight studio backlot, artificial feel to it - perfectly befitting just the kind of world a simulator would create. The photography in these sections also utilizes a slightly off color cast, nicely reflecting the tone found in color pictures of that era.
"The Thirteenth Floor" may not be a very "deep" movie, but it is an honorable addition to a newly formed genre that has not yet had time to ossify in its own conventions. Time alone will tell if filmmakers will be able to expand on this theme or whether, as with most genres, it will fall victim to its own inevitable cliches.
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