Monday, August 25, 2003

i think, therefore I am: The Thirteenth Floor (SPOILER WARNING)

A movie about a simulation within a simulation. Sound familiar?. Opening with Descartes' I think, therefore I am, the film is based on Daniel F. Galouye's 1964 novel Simulacron-3 (Counterfeit World), which was reportedly more political in nature (which would explain Fassbinder's television adaptation Welt am Draht of the book) than technological.
cover of the Galouye book

Vincent D'Onofrio (as the geek Jason Whitney), last seen in Full Metal Jacket, and Armin Mueller-Stahl grab top honours, while Gretchen Mol does best what precious little she gets to do. Craig Bierko sleepwalks through his part (just like Reeves in The Matrix series) looking like George Clooney, and occasionally getting the right expression on his face. Dennis Haysbert is effective as the persistent Detective McBain. The SFX (especially in the denouement) seem dated and understated, but the real strength of the film is it's genre-drenched narrative. The director's commentary reveals director Josef Rusnak's artistic distaste for spectacle and narrative brevity as he cites several instances where preview screenings and producer Roland Emmerich's (who directed Independence Day and Godzilla) explanations of the "need for the audience to see it". Thankfully, it doesn't let us down. The chopper shots of LA night buildings with the lights collaborating to conjure illusions that would be tougher to do with CGI are a treat. Unforgiveably, the theatrical trailer actually gives away most of the film's surprise elements. On the plus side, it does include a few seconds of footage that would not make it into the film. In terms of spectacle and SFX, this film does not hold a candle to the Matrix films. The budget has a lot to do with it. However, the story and plot have a stronger foundation (a novel in this case), with no need to pander to geek sentimentalities. Worth a dekko. Also included on the DVD is the video for the end credit song Erase/Rewind by The Cardigans from their album Gran Turismo.

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