Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

Note:  This review is reposted from Epinions.

Some questions are hard to answer. What is reality? What is life? Why are we here? When a company creates a virtual reality, people have to start asking these questions. They create a rendition of the 1930s that’s a little off in terms of the colors, but otherwise seems real. There are seemingly real people who sleep in seemingly real beds and eat seemingly real food. A user can connect and take the identities of one of the characters.

Hannon Fuller, the man who created the system, figures out something incredibly disturbing. It’s so disturbing that he has to leave a note for Douglas Hall, one of his employees, in the system. The problem is that Hall is suspected of Fuller’s death. There’s a period of a couple of hours that he can’t remember, which puts doubt in his mind.

So, he goes into the system to find the note. Thing is that the guy he gave it to isn’t telling. He also finds out that Fuller had a daughter and that the daughter is here to shut down the project, as per Fuller’s wishes. Thing is that no one knew that Fuller had a daughter or that he wanted to shut down the project. After all the hard work that they put into it, why shut it down?

There are a lot of implications for a machine like that. There are some positives, like using it for training. Tweak the physics a little and you give police a chance to train in situations without risking death. You could also have virtual vacations if you perfected it. You would also have your own virtual playground, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the user. (Imagine a virtual-reality Grand Theft Auto or interactive adult films.)

It does bring up the question of ‘being’ someone else. In the movie, the people generally assume the identities of people that look like them. However, you could put someone in the body of someone different. Someone could find out what it’s like to be bound to a wheelchair or what it’s like to be a minority. Those questions aren’t really dealt with in the movie. It's primarily a murder mystery. Did Hall really do it? If not, who did? You even get a twist midway through the movie.

Reality isn’t always what it seems. It’s also not all that it’s cracked up to be. The characters in the program go about their lives not knowing that they’re in a simulation. However, when one finds out, they begin to question what reality is. I have to give the movie credit for taking something that other books and movies have done and exploring it a little more. The movie gets four stars.

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