Was ist Wirklichkeit? Week: Part I

on January 13, 2009 by Steve Simels
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And speaking as we were last week of the brilliant existential sci-fi flick Brain Dead, it occurred to me that 1999 was a pretty good year for What is Reality? thrillers about computer-generated universes. Of course, The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as a guy who rightly goes "Whoa!", is the one everybody remembers, but there were actually a couple of others at least as good if not better (albeit "Whoa!"-less).

Submitted for your approval: The mind-bending The Thirteenth Floor, starring Boston Legal's Craig Bierko and future Bettie Page portrayer Gretchen Mol.

The plot:

Computer scientist and hooker frequenter Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl, even more Germanic than usual) has discovered something Extremely Important. He's about to impart the discovery to his colleague Douglas Hall (Bierko), but knowing someone is after him, he decides to leave a letter in his computer generated parallel world (a recreation of 1937 Los Angeles, with seemingly real people with real emotions) instead. Unfortunately, Fuller is murdered in our real(?) world the same night and the police suspect Hall (so does the audience after he discovers a bloody shirt in his bathroom). Hall then plunges headlong into Fuller's simulated L.A. to try to unravel the slaying and eventually discovers that pretty much everything he thinks he knows about everything is not exactly what we could call the truth.

 

There's more, including Dennis Haysbert as a slightly sinister LA cop (I think this is where I first took notice of Haysbert, who's wonderful in the part) and Vincent D'Onofrio as a friend of Hall's who may or may not actually exist; here's the trailer to give you an idea of the film's neat mix of metaphysical puzzler and film noir nail-biter.

So why wasn't this as big as The Matrix? Dunno -- as I said, it's "Whoa!"-less, but I for one prefer it to its better known (if more pretentious) cousin by a significant margin. Bottom line: You can -- and should -- order it here.

 

Tags: Brain Dead, The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert
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