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The Thirteenth Floor Reviews

Time waits for no film, and if this sci-fi thriller hadn't trailed behind THE MATRIX, eXISTENz and DARK CITY, all of which paddle around the same dark pool of worries about the nature of reality, it might seem less predictable and, well, more thrilling. Six years of feverish work by Intergraph Computer Systems programmers has produced a realer-than-real virtual reality game that plunges the user into an alternate reality — 1930s Los Angeles — indistinguishable from the real McCoy. But somewhere in the game lies a secret that VR visionary Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has hidden for his protégé Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko), afraid that he may not be around long enough to pass it on in person. Fuller's premonition is right: He's murdered by person or persons unknown, and Hall finds himself the main suspect. Confusing matters further is the fact that within the game exist characters who look exactly like people in the real world, because what could be more natural than to graft your face, or that of someone you know, onto your computer-simulated creations? And that's before the sudden appearance of Jane Fuller (Gretchen Moll), the beautiful daughter not even Fuller's closest associates knew he had, who plans to shut down the VR project forever. The 1964 sci-fi novel on which this movie is loosely based — Simulacron 3/Counterfeit Worlds by Daniel F. Galouye (adapted in the '70s as a German mini-series by Rainer Werner Fassbinder) — was clearly ahead of its time. But despite earnest performances by Mueller-Stahl, Bierko, Mol and Vincent d'Onofrio (in the duel role of a programmer and a VR bartender), the movie feels like a bit of a rehash: Even Hall's futuristic digs will be equally familiar to fans of BLADE RUNNER and Frank Lloyd Wright.