Thirteenth Floor, The (1999) 
Blu-ray Sci-Fi-Fantasy
Written by Noah Fleming   
Wednesday, 15 April 2009

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In 1999, one the most interesting science fiction was released to a less than stellar response.  Sure the film has some issues, the premise behind the story is ingenious.  The film only grossed about $12 million at the box office.  I truly believe that the film suffered from poor promotion rather than being a poor film.  "The Thirteenth Floor" is a psychological and science fiction gem.

The film is slow in parts, but the ultimate revelation catches you totally by surprise.  Having not seen the film since its original release, I had completely forgotten the twist in the film.  It was a pleasure to reconnect with the story.

"The Thirteenth Floor" is like "The Matrix" combined with "The Cell."  Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is a computer genius that has designed a secret project that has resulted in the creation of another world.  The world is manufactured by the computer simulation program, but the resulting characters believe the world to be real.  When the user takes off the helmet, the characters continue to live their lives in the fictional world.

When Fuller is murdered, Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) is fingered as the prime suspect by the police.  Hall is number two in command at the Fuller corporation, and with Fuller out of the way, he inherits the company.  To the surprise of the police and Hall, Fuller's unspoken-of daughter, Jane Fuller (Gretchen Mol) appears after his death.  Meanwhile, other witnesses and personnel begin to turn up dead.  Each time, Hall awakes with no recollection of what has happened, leading the police to suspect him even more.

Things take a twist when Fuller's "daughter" disappears.  A phone message left for Hall by Fuller shortly before his death informs Hall that a message has been left for him in the system.  Hall plugs into the computer simulation machine and searches desperately for the message.  He seeks out each of the citizens that were modeled after the creators of the simulation.  Jason Whitney (Vincent D'Onofrio) is the computer geek behind the simulation.  His alter ego in the computer simulation is Jerry Ashton, a bartender in 1937 Los Angeles.  It is Ashton which possesses note left for Hall.  Unfortunately, Ashton read the letter and found out the truth.  He longs to know what the real world is like and wants to be taken there.  Eventually, Ashton flips and becomes a psychopath.

The rest of the film is all twisted and needs to be seen for yourself.  I will not give away the turning point, but it is rather clever.

The video transfer is decent, but it is not spectacular.  The low-budget production is shown in readily in the transfer, although not nearly as much as in the recent "Donnie Darko" release.  The film has a consistent layer of film grain, which adds to the depth of the film and is never really distracting.  The image is intentionally a bit soft.  The simulated world is near colorless, with pushes to green and yellow.  This is intentional.  The black levels are decent and shadow delineation is surprisingly good.  The details are also good, even in the darker sequences.  The transfer does not warrant exemplary marks, but it is much improved over the standard DVD.

Likewise, the audio transfer is also adequate.  The Blu-ray comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  There is not much in the way of dynamics and the frequency response is consistent.  The LFE channel has a surprising prominence, which is well received.  The dialogue is clean and intelligible.  The surround channels are engaged with sound design elements and music bleed.  There is not much in the way of discreet sound effects, but the envelopment is good.  The clarity of the track is impressive and its dynamic range is better than the standard Dolby Digital audio track.  For fans of the film, this is a good upgrade component.

The Blu-ray comes with the same special features that were present on the standard DVD release.  All the special features have been left in standard definition.  There is an audio commentary track with director Josef Rusnak and production designer Kirk M. Patruccelli.  This track is fairly boring.  There are so many meaningless facts distributed that it becomes tough to handle.  The only other supplement is a music video of "Erase/Rewind" by The Cardigans.  The disc is also BD-Live enabled and has previews for other Sony Blu-ray disc releases.

"The Thirteenth Floor" has a unique draw to it.  While it has been dominated by "The Matrix," this film has its own little niche among science fiction fans.  The video and audio quality have been nicely preserved and upgrade form the standard definition release.  I recommend this disc to fans of science fiction and thrillers.
Studio Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating R
Starring Craig Bierko, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert, Steven Schub, Rif Hutton, Leon Rippy
Director Josef Rusnak
Film Release Year 1999
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Running Time 1 hr. 40 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • English • French • Portuguese • Spanish
Special Features Director/Production Designer Audio Commentary; Music Video "Erase/Rewind" by The Cardigans; Sony Previews; BD-Live
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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