There were some very, very interesting ideas in The Thirteenth Floor. It’s a “virtual reality” movie, like The Matrix or Dark City, but its tone is much less frantic and dark than its counterparts. It is paced like a murder mystery, rather than like an action movie, and it really pales by comparison. That’s a shame because some of the concepts in The Thirteenth Floor are just as interesting.
A high-tech company has just completed a virtual reality simulation of unsurpassed detail. The engineers can enter the simulation and go back to 1920. They can walk the streets of L.A. and really feel like they’re there.
Dark City, 1998, Alex Proyas, another more mythical, less computer-centric play on the same theme.
Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) heads the project that develops the simulation. One night he goes in unsupervised, comes back out, and is later murdered. Douglas (Craig Bierko), who is suspect number one, realizes there appears to be some evidence in the simulation that will clear his name. He must go back in to prove his innocence.
There is also some speculation as to the timing of the murder. Is it possible that Hannon brought someone or something back with him that committed the murder? Could that person or thing kill again?
As the murder is investigated and pieced together, so are the rules that govern the interaction between the simulation and reality. Both mysteries unravel to reveal the ahh!-inspiring truth.
But even so, the movie is a better idea — a better concept — than a movie. Thinking about it afterwards was more entertaining that sitting through the movie itself. My gut says this movie should only get about 2 stars. But because of its ingenious structure, and because it delights me to think about it afterwards, I give it that crucial extra half.