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The Thirteenth Floor

Starring: Criag Bierko, Gretchen Mol
Director: Josef Rusnak
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 1999
Rating: 3 / 5

Let us examine a few stereotypical traits of science fictions films: excellent special effects, an intriguing plot, and paper-thin characters. The vast majority of science fiction films today fit this bill, some obviously better than others. The Thirteenth Floor is no exception. Though the special effects are not as central a feature as in some films, the characters are virtually cardboard, leaving it up to the film's plot to provide redemption. While it is by no means a mind-boggling display, the film's overriding vision is the driving force of this film. Its central themes of reality and our perceptions of reality are rather compelling, giving the viewer enough food for thought to ignore the rest of the film's shortcomings.

Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) is a young executive at a leading software company, one which is pioneering new technologies in the realm of virtual reality. The company's owner, Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl), has helped to create an entire virtual reality world, which he can enter and exit as he pleases. Thinking only of the wonderment of this technology and the opportunities for self-fulfillment, Hannon gives little thought to the broad impact of his work. Has he merely created a little fantasy realm in which he can indulge some of his wildest dreams? Or has he created thinking, reasoning individuals who have no idea that they are a part of his artificial world?

Enter Jane Fuller (Gretchen Mol), newly discovered daughter of company's founder, to challenge Douglas for control of the company. It appears there is a difference of opinion regarding the future of the company. Some wish to see it grow and flourish, while others wish to see the company and its cutting-edge technology perish. Hopping between his world and Hannon's virtual reality, Douglas must unravel the mystery of his employer's creation. Only then will he truly understand what Hannon has created, and only then will he know the true scope of its power.

Director Josef Ruznak presents Daniel Galouye's novel at a brisk enough pace for any viewer to retain interest, yet not so fast that the events cannot be comprehended. The fault with this film, however, does not lie with him. The characters are bland and uninteresting, and we watch merely to see how the tale will unfold. Craig Bierko and especially Gretchen Mol plod through the movie, barely conveying any emotion, merely playing out their roles. Armin Mueller-Stahl brings a quiet dignity to the role of Hannon Fuller, but his appearances are few and far between. In the end, the story is enough to warrant a watching, but it may not be enough to satisfy the viewer. The Thirteenth Floor is left to wallow somewhere in the middle, a vague existence the film conveys all too well.

Cast:
Craig Bierko..........Douglas Hall
Gretchen Mol..........Jane Fuller
Armin Mueller-Stahl..........Hannon Fuller
Vincent D'Onofrio..........Whitney
Dennis Haysbert..........Detective McBain

Certification: Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 100 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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[critics]