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 his computer generated parallel world that's just 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...
Directed by: Josef Rusnak
. Starring: Craig Bierko
, Armin Mueller-Stahl
, Gretchen Mol
, Vincent D'Onofrio
, Dennis Haysbert
, Steven Schub
, Jeremy Roberts
, Rif Hutton
, Leon Rippy
, Janet MacLachlan
, Brad William Henke
, Burt Bulos
, Venessia Valentino
. Music by: Harald Kloser
Is it just me or are people missing the point? This movie is not a Matrix clone. Matrix is science fantasy. Thirteenth Floor looks at something that is theoretically possible in the future. This is a very deep movie. Its only down side is that it is a very difficult movie to make and comprehend. Just try to think about it for a second.
Computer simulations have been around for a while now. You can simulate wars to work out strategies, you can simulate aircraft for flight training, you can simulate explosions to work out the resulting damage. The list is endless. You have played video games at some point in time have'nt you? Well when you think about it most games are basically simulations, be it flight simulator, FIFA 99, quake, doom, red alert etc.
As computing power increases, the quality, realism and accuracy of simulations is improving all the time. At the moment, characters in a game fake 'intelligence'. Say you fire a gun in a game like quake, an enemy 'hears' you turns around and shoots back. A character in a game falls on the ground and holds his arm where he has just been shot. But he is not programmed to feel pain, or to bleed or to fear his own death. But what if he was?
Now say we approach such a level of programming, that characters in a computer simulation are programmed with real intelligence and awareness, their world is fully programmed to appear, feel, smell and touch as real to them, as our world does to us. Say we want to see the reaction of the people of a city to a nuclear leak at a power plant. We create a city with a power plant on the outskirts, populate (program) this simulated city with simulated people and objects from the sub-nuclear level right up to frozen pizza. These simulated people move and think independently within this environment. They sleep, eat, have sex, go to school, steal and watch television. They breathe what to them is air, they 'think'. They worry about bills, jobs, security, money, the weather, traffic jams...'. Then we program the nuclear leak, sit back and watch as these poor characters run for their lives!
Now are there any ethics to creating such a simulation? Are we responsible for their continued existence? Are they 'real'? "I think therefore, I am". Well if they did 'think' then are they? What if Microsoft or Electronic Arts brought out 'Virtual World 2050' for Windows? You slot in your CD, enter setup and create a world on your system full of 'intelligent' characters in their own world. Perhaps a better name for this game would be "GOD 2050" for Windows, because as far as these characters are concerned, that is what you would be.
How about inputoutput methods? Keyboards, mouse and pen pointers, voice recognition, monitors and VR sets? Our brain waves, senses and optic images are made up of impulses. Isnt it theoretically possible to link up to a computer so that what we feel, sense and see is computer generated? Say this interface disengages your senses and links you to one of the characters in a simulation so that you now feel, sense and see what this character does in his virtual reality world.
The problem with this movie is that when you really think about it, this subject is difficult to comprehend because unlike timetravel (impossible), space travel (nothing can travel faster than the speed of light so forget about the warp drive and space exploration) and alien invasions (is there really anyone out there?) it will happen and may create more of an uproar than genetic engineering. You can either make something spectacularly outlandish (like Matrix) or realistic? You cannot do both.
Another problem with this concept is that it is virtually impossible for a virtual character to figure out for himself that he is simulated. The bits where these characters drive to the end of their simulations are pretty stupid. But how can a simulated character find out that he is a simulation in a simulated world? If you program a world well enough, your characters will never know. You could throw earthquakes, hailstorms, a solar eclipse everyday, even keyboards raining from the sky and these poor characters would just watch scared, helpless and totally confused.
And one day you find that you are running out of hard disk space and you decide to delete the virtual world on your system? Would you or would'nt you? What if your own world was simulated? What if you were a simulated character? How would you react to finding out that you were just a simulated character? How would you react to finding out that your existence was totally at the mercy of a programmer who is just a mortal? Would life loose its meaning?
I was intensely dissappointed with 'The Matrix', mainly because I was expecting this very issue that has been taken up by 'The Thirteenth Floor'. For me 'The Matrix' was a spectacular special effects show with stylised slow motion shots, and cool techno music. As far as substance was concerned 'The Matrix' was pure nonsense. It had no hole in the story as the story itself was a hole. If this world is simulated and the real one has us all kept alive in incubators by some evil life form then stuff reality, I'll stay right here thank you. Also if this world is a simulation then the programmers have complete control. No need to send in 'Men in Black' lookalikes (and why not send in three hundred instead of 3), no use running around looking for telephones. The programmer just has to run Norton antivirus. Similar mistakes are made in Thirteenth floor, but only become apparent when you think about them. For instance if you are a simulation and you find out the truth, so what? You can never pose any threat to your programmers? No need to download and kill the simulated character.
The atmosphere of the movie is right as it deals with a serious issue like self awareness. The acting is suited to the movie, sober. The romance could have been toned down or left out but the supermarket checkout scene is beautifully done and is very touching (only if you think about whats happening and realise what Douglas Hall is realising) and the ending could have been much much better. What if the movie ended with the simulated worlds being switched off? No more school from tomorrow. This is a movie, not a special effects extravaganza with hyperactive gun toting heroes saying 'lets kick some ass'.
I figured out exactly where the story was leading as soon as Fuller came out of the 1930's simulation into the 'real' world. It does not take much genius to work it out. It is really difficult to fool people nowadays or keep people in suspense. In 'Saving Private Ryan' everyone knew that the first Ryan was the wrong one, in 'Seven' everyone knew what was being delivered in the FedEx van. But I wanted to see how things unfold.
If you like to use your brain now and then, you will love this movie, as I did. Also if you tend not to be influenced by hype and publicity, you may appreciate this movie. I think that this movie could easily have been a classic. I am a science fiction fan and I was intruiged. I read Stanley Kubrik, Arthur C. Clark and other sci-fi novelists. My favourite sci-fi movies are Blade Runner, Contact, 2001. Non sci-fi favourites are The Shawshank Redemption, ANTZ, Some like it hot. For me 'The Matrix' and 'Phantom Menace' were incredibly overated. A movie is not just about special effects and a bunch of hip overconfident cocky characters wearing Raybans in the dark.
I was definetely a minority when I loved 'The Shawshank Redemption' and everyone was calling it crap, and the same looks true here too.
Review by Popcorn-28 from the Internet Movie Database.