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THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 5, 2009 by  



“The film does have an interesting and entertaining plot.  ‘THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR’ is full of suspense and is definitely an enjoyable thriller.  A film known for its audio during the early DVD years, the audio just screams of awesomeness in Dolby TrueHD!”

Images courtesy of © 1999 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Language(s): English 5.1, French (Canadian) 5.1, Spanish (Latin Am) 5.1, Portuguese (Brazil) 5.1.  Subtitles(s): English (US), French (Parisian), Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin Am).  1080p, Aspect Ratio: 2.40

RATED: R (For Violence and Language)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: April 17, 2009

Directed by Josef Rusnak

Based on the book “Simulacron 3” by Daniel F. Galouye

Screenplay by Josef Rusnak and Ravel Centeno-Rodriguez

Produced by Roland Emmerich, Ute Emmerich, Marco Weber

Executive Produced by Helga Ballhaus, Michael Ballhaus

Co-Produced by Kelly Van Horn

Original Music by Harold Kloser

Director of Photography: Wedigo von Schultzendorff

Editing by Henry Richardson

Set Decoration by Victor J. Zolfo

Costume Design by Joseph A. Porro

Cast:

Craig Bierko as Douglas Hall/John Ferguson/David

Armin Mueller-Stahl as Hannon Fuller/Grierson

Gretchen Mol as Jane Fuller/Natasha Molinaro

Vincent D’Onofrio as Jason Whitney/Jerry Ashton

Dennis Haysbert as Detective Larry McBain

The barriers that separate fantasy from reality are shattered in this stylish, mind-jarring thriller, where two parallel worlds collide in a paroxysm of deception, madness and murder. On the thirteenth floor of a corporate tower, high-tech visionary Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko, The Long Kiss Goodnight) and his high-strung colleague, Whitney (Vincent D’Onofrio, Men In Black), have opened the door to an amazing virtual world – circa 1937 Los Angeles. But when the powerful leader of their secret project (Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shine, The X-Files) is discovered slashed to death, Hall himself becomes the prime suspect. Arriving from Paris is the beautiful and mysterious Jane Fuller (Gretchen Mol, Rounders), claiming to be the murder victim’s daughter. Her instant, magnetic attraction to Hall only further blurs the lines of what is real. Is he the killer? Is the inscrutable Jane somehow connected? To find the answers, Hall must cross the boundaries into the simulated reality he has helped create – and confront the astonishing truth about his own existence.

In 1999, ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ was a film with an interesting concept but since it came out after ‘The Matrix’, the film kind of wasn’t all that popular in the US.  But if there was one thing that ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ would be known for during the beginning of the DVD era and most likely now with its Blu-ray release is the fantastic audio.  For audiophiles looking for a film that is up there there in quality HD sound, ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ sounds absolute beautiful in Dolby TrueHD!

“THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is a film based on Daniel Galouye’s book “Simulacron 3” and directed by German director Josef Rusnak and produced by Roland Emmerich (Director and Producer of “Independence Day”, “The Patriot”, “The Day After Tomorrow” and “10,000 BC”).

The film takes place in the late 1990’s and starts off with Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl), an owner of a multi-billion dollar tech company known for it’s work in virtual reality simulation.  As he quickly visits the bar and gives an urgent letter to the bar keeper Jerry Ashton (Vincent D’Oforio), Hannon visits a local bar and meets up with someone he knows but is stabbed to death.

The film then shifts to his good friend and protege Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) who is contacted by the authorities specifically by LAPD Detective Larry McBain (Dennis Haysbert) for questioning in regards to Fuller’s death.  While both Hall and McBain visit Hannon’s suite, they run into a woman who says that she is his daughter Jane (Gretchen Mol) and just came to town to visit her father.

As for Hall, he is shocked that his boss and good friend is dead but he feels that perhaps Fuller may have left him a clue in the virtual reality world that Fuller has been downloading into.

The concept of virtual reality with Fuller’s technology is that a person has the ability to download themselves into a player and thus acting them out in almost a real-like world.  For Douglas, he downloads himself into John Ferguson during the 1920’s where he sees a version of Fuller and also meets up with the barkeeper (who has the urgent message written by Fuller and has read it).  He tries to visit the online world and the first time he gets into that virtual world, he is shocked by how real it is.  But what Ferguson doesn’t know is that the barkeeper has seen Hall/Ferguson switch bodies and thus causing implications in the virtual world.

Things get out-of-hand during the second visit in which Ferguson meets up with Fuller to discuss this urgent letter that he wrote to him.  Ferguson meets up with the barkeeper to find out why he has taken the letter meant for him and the barkeeper tells him that the letter contained information about the End of the World.  In other words, driving to a location and finding out that the world that they (the characters in the virtual world) live in, is not real.

With someone from the virtual world now knowing the truth that their existence is not real, he shoots Ferguson to see if he will die.  Fortunately, for Hall, he returns to his reality.

Meanwhile, Detective McBain and the authorities have a received an eyewitness report that Douglass Hall was responsible for the murder of Fuller and thus arrest him but release him out on bail when they have no real evidence against him.  When McBain tells him that Fuller’s daughter is not who she thinks that he is, Hall becomes even more confused.

That is until he drives to “The End of the World” and realizes that all this time, the world he lives in is a virtual world and he is a virtual character.  Shocked by this development, Douglass tries to find out the truth of what is real and what is not real and who may have killed Fuller in his world.  The person who may have the answer is the woman pretending to be Fuller’s daughter.  Thus Douglas begins his search for her.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ration of 2:40:1.  In some scenes, the picture quality looks good but for some other scenes, it looks aged.  So, picture quality is a bit uneven at times.  The film tends to use a lot of darker colors.  A lot of blacks and if there is one thing that makes the film look cool is the actual use of city lights, the city look and just its use of darkness.  The setup for the virtual world is OK despite it being ten years since the film came out.  There are some technology featured on the film that shouts “1990’s” but overall, the way the film goes from present time, to the past and then to the future, I liked that aspect.   Granted, comparing it to “THE MATRIX” which came out a few months prior, unfortunately budget wise, the film didn’t have the same quality or high technology type of feel.

If there was one thing going for the film, it was its use of audio.  I remember during the initial home theater discussions for DVD’s, “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” was among the top DVD’s around 2001-2002 that were looked at as “reference” DVD’s to show off one’s home theater system because of the awesome audio.  I remember testing the audio in my older receiver and just to hear the glass shatter, the virtual reality beams making its’ noise to gun shots.  The film’s audio quality was just awesome.

So, needless to say, I had high expectations for the Dolby TrueHD audio for this film and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint.  The film came out loud and clear and I felt the sound all around me.  The glass shattering and the virtual reality beams just sounded enormously sweet and overall, if I had it any louder, I think I could busted my eardrum.  Now granted, with newer films that scream of gorgeous sound like “Quantum of Solace” and “Transformers”,  for an older film,  “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is just audio goodness and despite being ten years old, the film is just amazing to listen to.  Its definitely a disc worth picking up to showcase Dolby TrueHD sound.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” unfortunately does not come with as many special features as its original DVD release. Included on the Blu-ray are:

  • Commentary with Director Josef Rusnak and Production Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli – The commentary track features Josef Rusnak but if anything, with the film utilizing so much production design, it was a good choice by Rusnak to include Kirk M. Petruccelli to discuss a lot of the work he had to do for the film.  If there was anything that I found quite intriguing in the commentary was Rusnak’s comment about the end.  He filmed so many different endings and even ’till now, he is not sure if he chose the correct ending.
  • Music Video of “Erase/Rewind” by the Cardigans – An older music video by the Cardigans.
  • Previews: Film trailers

The original DVD had a few more special features such as the audio test utilizing the film “Godzilla” which Emmerich did direct, production notes, conceptual art gallery and special effects gallery.  Not quite sure why they eliminated those.

The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled.

Personally, I actually enjoyed “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR”.  It was an interesting concept about virtual reality worlds and what if those virtual reality worlds created other virtual reality worlds and thus, I’m sure it can get quite confusing.  Especially if one is able to freely travel to different eras.

But part of the problem with “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is that with a $16 million budget, there is only so much you can do.  And with a film like “THE MATRIX” coming out a few months before “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” back in 1999, they have their similarities but special effects-wise, “THE MATRIX” was just a significant film, while the “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” didn’t have any super star power behind it and didn’t do well in the box office.

But I watched the film several times over the years and there’s something about the film that has that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” holodeck vibe, the adventure of visiting other worlds in different eras and combining the sci-fi time travel, suspense and in the end, “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is a thrilling story.  I felt that Craig Bierko and Gretchen Mol did a fine job with portraying multiple characters and their mannerisms.  But It’s just that with a small budget, there is only so much you can do in terms of special effects.

But despite its shortcomings, “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” is one of those films that is worth giving a chance and who knows, you may enjoy it. I certainly did.   And as for the audiophiles, this  film will definitely be a pleasuring auditory experience.

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