Matrix in the ’30s?

13th floor poster

Matrix in the ’30s?

This time, I will talk about a film that is very much like Matrix. However, I discovered it very recently: The 13th floor.

As I already mentioned in posts like this one, the film resorts to the old myth of the cave plot, but this time, with a touch of film noir.

Technical details

The film was released in 1999, almost at the same time as Matrix, so it was somewhat forgotten. Its director, Josef Rusnak, was inspired by the 1964 novel, Simulacron-3, written by Daniel F. Galouye. Previously, in 1973, it had been adapted as a miniseries in Germany.

The film was nominated for a Saturn Award but, again, Matrix won it out.

The film received mixed reviews.

Before we continue, spoiler alert: If you’re thinking of watching the movie, you should stop reading now.

The plot

We begin in 1937, following a well-dressed old man. The subject, who we will later know as Hannon Fuller, is having a great time in a nightclub. Everyone knows him, especially women.

But tonight he has something else to do: He leaves an envelope to Ashton, the club bartender. He tells him that another man, named Douglas Hall, will be picking it up.


Later, he returns to a modest apartment and gets into bed, where his wife is already asleep. Then he wakes up in the middle of a computer center: Everything has been a simulation.

Snapping back to reality

Fuller heads to a bar and tries to make a phone call. He leaves a message on an answering machine, saying that he has discovered something important. But at that moment, the door of the bar opens and Fuller sees someone familiar. He asks how he found him, but the stranger just kills him.

Later we see the man who worked with him, who turns out to be this Douglas, wake up in his apartment. He listens to the messages on his answering machine and one of them is Fuller’s. He also finds a bloodstained shirt in his bathroom.


When he arrives at work, the police are questioning everyone about Fuller’s death. Apparently, Douglas is the main suspect.

The love story

Another strange thing is that Fuller’s daughter appears, a certain Jane Fuller, of whom Douglas knew nothing.

She intends to inherit her father’s company and close it down. Her lawyer tells her not to worry, because they have a good case. She doesn’t seem to understand, so the lawyer explains that Fuller’s will says he leaves everything to Douglas.

Douglas feels strangely attracted to this mysterious woman, as if he already knew her. She seems interested too, but it’s obvious she’s hiding something. This is how a love story begins to take shape and, with the help of some music where the saxophone is the protagonist, the movie evokes a melancholy that is very characteristic of film noir.

douglas and Jane
douglas and Jane

The investigation

To try to find out what happened to Fuller, before the police put him in jail, Douglas gets into the simulation. This is where the film explains that everyone who worked on the project had an exact duplicate, with a different name, in the simulation.

Under the identity of his ‘30s counterpart, named John Ferguson, Douglas attempts to follow Fuller’s track. He discovers what the old man was doing, but when he talks to Ashton, the bartender doesn’t tell him about the letter.


At about this point, we find out that Ashton is the virtual version of a programmer, who works with Douglas, named Jason.

The fact is that Ashton has read the letter. There, Fuller instructed Douglas to drive down a road he didn’t know and stop at nothing. Ashton did it: He ignored stop signs and even went through a barrier in the middle of the route. Thus, he reached the limit of that virtual world and discovered that he inhabited a simulation.

Eventually, Aston confronts Douglas, but Douglas doesn’t understand what’s going on: He knows the limits of the virtual world. Why would the old man tell him? Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out.

Here the trailer:


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