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THIRTEENTH FLOOR, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Computer genius Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has invented a silicon-chip generated simulation of 1937 Los Angeles which it is possible to be transported to and "live" in. After returning from his artificially created world, Fuller is stabbed to death and suspicion falls on his assistant Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko). With the help of computer geek Whitney, (Vincent D'Onofrio), Hall transports himself to 1937 where he "becomes" his 1937 identity double, bank teller John Ferguson. The arrival of Fuller's daughter, Jane (Gretchen Mol), claiming her father was about to terminate the program, leads Hall/Ferguson on a chase through two worlds to unravel the mystery behind Fuller's death.

"It may lack the whizz-bangery of the similarly-themed Dark City and The Matrix but for the first two thirds of its running time, Josef Rusnak's cyber-mystery has at least as much going for it. Until the disappointing ending, I liked this for the fact that it wasn't just a showcase of what special effects can do this week. It's no slouch when it wants to show off but is more concerned with setting up an intriguing murder mystery which jumps between a real and an electronically constructed world. For an hour this puzzle-box does just that as we learn what's been going on up on the 13th floor and marvel at production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli's stunning recreation of L.A. in the days when trams rolled down Wilshire Boulevarde and oil derricks dotted the outskirts of town. It's a "fake" world but its basis in a past reality is far more involving than the usual alternate worlds in similar which invariably end up resembling a night club in hell. Mueller-Stahl is a class act, D'Onofrio is nicely unhinged, Mol more than set decoration but Bierko's dull presence counts against it. The last twenty minutes are a let-down as the inevitable need to tie things up takes over, ironically creating more confusion about who's who than in the smoothly constructed first two acts. Costing under $100m this is almost bargain basement by today's standards and the strength of its ideas, if not its resolution, is well worth investigating."
Richard Kuipers

“Several films this year have toyed with the idea of reality as a sham - a virtual construct of either someone else's (The Matrix) or our own (the upcoming eXistenZ) design. In Thirteenth Floor, director Josef Rusnak blends the idea of a fake "reality" with a murder mystery and a rather oblique - and off-beat - love story. The plot is an absorbing one, although some of the film's surprises are a little too obvious. Its absolutely wonderful visuals evoke both the art deco world of Los Angeles in the 30's and an almost post-modernist rainsoaked vision of the same city today. It reminded me a little of the largely underrated Gattaca and, going back further, the expressionist films of Fritz Lang. Although it veers towards some rather silly territory towards the end, for the most part, Thirteenth Floor is an engrossing experience. It is helped no end by a strong central performance from Craig Bierko, who shows some real promise as a leading man. Playing Douglas Hall, a character who's at times inhabiting someone else's body (which looks just like his own!), he's never less than believable. Armin Mueller-Stahl is his usual stylish self in the crucial but subsidiary role of Hannon Fuller; and Gretchen Mol is solid as Jane (although at times I thought she was a just little too sweet for the part). While Thirteenth Floor may not have the big budgets of some similarly themed movies, this well-made and (mostly) well-written film more than matches it with them in the way it plays with the audience's mind. Sure, it's not a major film - but an enjoyable and thought-provoking one nonetheless.”
David Edwards

“Dark City, The Matrix, The Truman Show: three recent blockbusters set within a simulated ‘virtual reality,’ each made in Australia and/or by an Australian filmmaker. An account of being trapped by an oppressively fake universe could describe an outsider’s experience in Hollywood, but could equally well apply to the Down Under feeling of being far from the real world, adrift in a sunny nowhere-in-particular. Or is this plot device just a useful alibi for international genre films that aren’t rooted in any specific experience or place? The latest entry in the cycle has no local links, which might be a relief. Made in Hollywood by a German producer and director, it’s a mundane rehash of some standard science-fiction themes, suffering, in comparison to the films cited above, from a basic lack of star power, thrills, special effects, originality or wit. It’s too mindless for a thriller but not spectacular enough for an action film, and the script makes no attempt to suggest characters, so that Craig Bierko and Gretchen Mol might as well be reading their lines off cue cards. Stylistically it’s fairly slick but over-familiar – as usual, the future is noir: blue steely skyscrapers loom over shadowy rainswept streets. Yet however cliched the presentation has become, the main idea is still deeply appealing. That recurrent image of touching ‘the end of the world’ – or leaving it behind – carries a weight of longing as well as metaphysical dread. At the end, the characters, freed, come together for the first time, on a beach like those in Dark City and The Truman Show. Beyond lies an ocean of limitless possibility. A hack movie, yes, but why was it made, why would anybody watch it, if not so they could dream that dream?”
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

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TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

THIRTEENTH FLOOR, THE
(US)

CAST: Craig Bierko, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haybert, Steve Schub, Jeremy Roberts, Rif Hutton

DIRECTOR: Josef Rusnak

PRODUCERS: Roland Emmerich, Ute Emmerich, Marco Weber

SCRIPT: Daniel F. Galouye, Josef Rusnek

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wedigo von Schulzendorff

EDITOR: Henry Richardson

MUSIC: Harald Kloser

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kirk M. Petruccelli

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 2, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: January 19, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment







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