World on a Wire - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

World on a Wire Reviews

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April 28, 2013
Dated sci-if aesthetic signifiers (but timely sc-fi themes wrt to "the simulation argument") work extremely well with Fassbender's expansive and hypnotic staginess; the challenge of representing "the future" with limited means in 1970s Germany allowed for a strong showcase of mise en scene. And Fassbender's blocking of actors (as always) becomes a compelling dance of glances.
April 25, 2013
Matrix, Dark City, eXistenZ, 13th Floor.....Welt am Draht--Ahead of its time, to say the least; Fassbinded!!
½ April 21, 2013
This rediscovered German sci fi movie is a real brain teaser in which realities are multiple, technology is everywhere & and the nature of existence falls into question
April 18, 2013
Classic sci-fi. But not really so fun to watch.
March 2, 2013
I remember seeing this movie years ago as a bootleg(there simply was no other source) and when I saw the Matrix my thought was "hey I've seen this before!". In fairness, the Matrix was a great movie, with lots of fun action, but Welt am Draht (World on a Wire) is to the Matrix what the Matrix was to other movies.

World on a Wire is a movie truly ahead of its time, and I feel terribly even mentioning the Matrix because the sheer hint of what this movie is about I think ruins it. The movie is so well done for its premise that I think many people may skip it because it seems odd, trust me stick with it. This is one of those movies worth seeing again to enjoy the subtle nuances that make the story complete.

It's hard to find a copy, but Hulu has it at the moment.
½ February 17, 2013
I'm really hovering in between three stars and two and a half for this... The plot is very contemporary and interesting, there's a couple of great sets and camera direction, and it does keep up momentum... however the acting is horrendous, the dialogue is stilted and it's so overly long for such a simple plot line that doesn't ever really go that far after the first (predictable) reveal. It might be that this plot line has been done so many times in the last decade that I'm just too jaded... but this one was style over substance for me, they should have gone further with it.
January 2, 2013
The original Matrix movie, minus the special effects. Amazing how far ahead of its time this movie was. Definately worth the watch if you ever wondered if we are all just part of someone else's "Matrix"
January 1, 2013
It's quite hard to believe this film was made in 1973. A mysterious death of a creative director of an institute which runs a virtual reality program called Simulacron kicks off a heady, twisty film on computers, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. That's all one needs to know. This was made before "Tron" and way before "The Matrix" and "Inception". Yet somehow manages to be more thought-provoking and mind-bending than any of them. The film is almost eerily prophetic on the way it depicts the virtual world. Originally a TV miniseries, the 3.5 hour running time doesn't feel that long at all and it gives you a lot to digest philosophically.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2012
A computer programmer assigned to run a virtual reality world after his superior goes insane finds himself paranoid about whether he is actually part of the simulation. This two-part movie made for German TV by Rainer Werner Fassbinder runs three and a half hours; it's the ur-virtual reality movie, a lost science fiction classic with rigorous philosophy and deep artistry.
½ October 9, 2012
At first I was really drawn in by the intricate plot and the sometimes beautiful cinematography by Michael Balhaus. But eventually I just tuned out, not impressed with the acting or the pacing. Nevertheless, it is well made, and another showcase of Fassbinder's immense talent.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
September 2, 2012
"He's got a little bitty baby on a wire; he's got the whole world on a wire!" I don't know what in the world on a wire that verse-less song is about (It's "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by the ways; learn your dirt-old music, kiddies), though I think that I might be more lost with this film, because I don't know where Mel Gibson or Goldie Hawn are, nor do I know who this Rainer Werner Fassbinder guy is. I thought that this was Werner Herzog. Oh no, I'm sorry, Herzog did "Man on Wire" and Mel Gibson was in "Bird on a Wire", which was scored by Hans Zimmer, so I think it's safe to say that if you put "on Wire" in your title, then you stand a good chance of getting a major German member of the film industry attached, probably because the Germans in question wish they were attached to this film, because for a TV movie, this was a hit, or at least to people who are willing to sit through three-and-a-half hours of German, which narrows it down to people who speak German, me - the American who had the guts to sit through the uncut, five-hour version of "Das Boot" - and the Criterion Collection. Shoot, at this point, I don't know if Criterion or, well, most everyone else in the film criticism industry so much actually watch, let alone read these films, as much as they read "German", "1973" and "three-and-a-half hours" in descriptions of this film and automatically think, "genius!" Hey, I can't blame them too much, because although I very rarely call something genius, lord knows that if I'm gonna watch a three-and-a-half-hour-long film that's in a language I don't understand, or any kind of three-and-a-half-hour-long film for that matter, then it better be good, as my opinion toward "Alexander", or at least the extended cut of "Alexander", definately proves. Don't worry people, this film definately keeps up its being genuinely good more consistently than "Alexander" does, and yet, with that said, this film still doesn't quite make it to terribly worthy of the praise the annoyingly snobby critics are giving it, for although this film is good enough to where it easily avoids dangling toward the edge of underwhelmingness, it doesn't exactly walk the wire of quality with consistent ease.

Running over three-and-a-half hours and being made for TV, and by extension, general audiences, rather than just annoyingly snobby Cannes critics who just love arrogant art pieces that have nothing but nothing to say or do, plenty obviously happens throughout the course of this film, yet it's not quite an epic, but is instead a sci-fi noir film, and not even that kind of elaborately produced "Blade Runner" sci-fi noir, partially because, as I said, stuff actually happens and the film is, as implied, not really all that dull (Calm down, I like "Blade Runner", but jeez, Ridley, pick up the pace!). This is a good old fashion stylish conversational noir drama that goes driven by dialogue and intrige more than action and raw suspense, which is good and all, and certainly makes for a good film, yet it's hard to tackle such a genre without falling into a trope or two or three or four, even when your film is ahead of its time. Well, sure enough, while the film is nowhere near as ciched as a contemporary TV movie (Few things are), it will sometimes collapse into a story trope explored by films of its type time and again, sometimes in a throwaway fashion and sometimes in a glaring fashion, while also sometimes collapsing into something that's not necessarily a trope, but a tradition that has been practiced by many films of this type: being a bit too steady for its own good. The film isn't all that slow, yet it will occasionally take its time with things and limp along with only so much bite to sustain your engagement, rarely to where the film is rendered bland and never to where to where the film is rendered all that dull, yet still to where you'd be hard pressed to feel as though this film needs to get a bit more pressed for time. Of course, the film's biggest problems is an aspect that I've been refering back to over and over throughout this review: it's three-and-a-half hours, or in other words, way too blasted long, and earns such a runtime, not through nothingness and filler, but through too much exposition. This kind of film is built around exposition, but this kind of film isn't built for a length this sprawling, and thus goes plagued by way too much repetition and looseness in story progression, which not only gives the audience enough time to really get a close look at the slow spots and story convention, but leaves the film to lose too much steam in too many places to keep your attention fully sustained. However, those who are patient will find themselves ultimately rewarded, which isn't to say that this film requires quite too much patience, because as much as I complain about film's having slow spots, lapses in engagement value and simply being too long, it keeps you going much more often than it lets you go, and does so with more than a few tools that were ahead of this film's time and remain impressive to this day.

Stylistically, the film was ahead of its time, pulling moves that have still dated to one extent or another, yet are still considerably impressive to this day, with Michael Ballhaus' and Ulrich Prinz's cinematography being nothing short of upstanding. Sure, maybe the photography will occasionally pull that lame trick of suddenly zooming in on something or someone's face all unsubtly dramatic-like, yet on the whole, the photography enhances the clever themes of the film, pronouncing color and playing with the limitations of the time for a somewhat surrealistic effect that catches your eye and gracefully helps in both slicking up and defining the tones and themes of the film. As for Gottfried Hüngsberg's score work, its noisily surrealistic synthesizer style takes some getting used to, but once you do manage to settle down and find yourself able to run with Hüngsberg's work, expect to be impressed by its being so uniquely non-melodic, for although you're not likely to be kicking it to this soundtrack on your MP3 or radio - unless of course you're taking acid, in which case, you better hope you don't fall into a bad trip -, the music is so very atmospheric, and when the then-top-notch and still-stellar sound design seamlessly bonds this bizarre audio style into the film's environment, the music's atmospheric effectiveness goes amplified and defines this film's intrigue and surrealism in a clever and engrossing fashion that is, so to speak, graceful in its lack of grace. The film is stylistically striking, with art direction, audio tricks and even a few fine production designs that catch your attention, while what secures that attention, as well as investment, through most of the film is the story, which may not be especially remarkable, or even wholly original, yet remains pretty excellent and fascinating, with depth, intrigue and, of course, plenty of layers and complexities that render the film convoluted, but in a good way. If you're American and have enough trouble trying to figure out what in the world (on a wire) these Germans are going on and on about, then the idea that you'll have to unravel a complex story that's already conceptually convoluted probably doesn't sound too easing, but if you're willing to go all in, when you get down to it, it's quite fascinating, if not just plain compelling watching everything fall into place, even with all of the slow occasions and common spots of repetition, and for this, credit not only goes out to Daniel F. Galouye and Rainer Werner Fassbinder for concieving such a nifty story, as well as crafting a well-structured and lively screenplay around that nifty story concept, but Fassbinder's direction, which isn't exactly stellar, yet remains inspired and atmospheric, boasting livliness, depth and intrigue that sparks sharp charm during the relatively less serious moments and engagement value during plenty of relatively more active moments. Fassbinder doesn't keep this film going consistently smooth, yet he lives things up more often than not, and with that livliness going intensified by the aforementioned sharp style, as well as a slew of charimsatic performances within this colorful cast, the final product, even with all of its drops in momentum and engagement value, comes out more often than not quite entertaining. Sitting through this film will prove to be a bit of a challenge, considering its unnecessarily hefty length and all of the damage done to steam, yet if you're willing to take the wire for what it is, expect your walk across to be generally smooth and ultimately rewarding, as the film is thoroughly stylish, often fascinating, generally entertaining and altogether pretty good television.

Once the wire runs thin, you're left looking back at a final product whose steam and engagement value goes hurt by a couple of cliches, tainted by a couple of slow spots and plagued by the film's simply being just too long to have such a hardly broad story, which goes padded out by plenty of repetition and overlong moments, until the final product is left a bit bloated and flawed, yet nevertheless rewarding, boasting stylistic choices - ranging from colorful cinematography by Michael Ballhaus and Ulrich Prinz to neatly surrealistic score work by Gottfried Hüngsberg, and even clever sound design - that were ahead of their time, and remain impressive today, much like the story, which may not be broad enough to be as lengthy as it is, yet remains compellingly complex and well-structured, as well as brought to life by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's inspired direction and a colorful cast of charismas, thus creating much intrigue and even quite a bit of entertainment value that ultimately prevail in making in "World on a Wire" (or "Welt am Draht"; German film titles sound cool) a consistently enjoyable sci-fi noir that rewards the patient.

3/5 - Good
½ August 18, 2012
Lots of goods here, and some bads as well. Fantastic in terms of cinematography, and many technical aspects, but truly a slog slog slouchy slumpdy sloggy crawl. Views like a book. I would much rather have read a Philip K. Dick novel, which this seems to be emulating (well, I might add). I would say that 30 or so scenes could be cut, and in doing so the film could achieve it's potential. Listen, I realize it was made for TV, but it really feels to keep you intrigued. I could talk about the positives at length but I don't feel the necessity there.
½ August 2, 2012
Directed by one of the most critically & internationally acclaimed German art-house film maker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this is the first direct film adaptation of Daniel F. Galouye's Simulacron-3...a novel that also inspired THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR (1999).
Originally aired in 1973, as a two-part TV miniseries in Germany, this is a slow burn noir-like, quite strange sci-fi flick that fairly share similar theme like modern blockbusters BLADE RUNNER (1982), THE MATRIX (1999) but without any help of CGI and still quite remarkably told the story through concentrated more on mood and character development than action or entertainment value. For its surrealistic tone with dark humor & slow pace in the length of 205 minutes, this may not be a 'right film' for everyone but a must see for any ardent sci-fi lovers.
½ July 16, 2012
Not the easiest epic to get through. Over 3 1/2 hours long. I am extremely fascinated by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but I have yet to love a film of his.
July 2, 2012
Made for German TV in 1973, this is Rainer Werner Fassbinder's only sci fi effort (among 40 or so films made before he died in his thirties in 1982). Shot quickly on a small budget but with a hell of a lot of flair and style (just look at how the camera moves and what it looks at). It even feels like a 70s action show at times but it is deeper, more layered, more existential, and a lot more nutty than that. Best watched across two nights (it was designed in two parts) to really let the "shattering" cliffhanger set in -- I was really looking forward to the second half. To top it all off, this 40 year old film is so "modern" with its focus on the creation of a virtual reality and how the electronic beings in it might take on consciousness (and what might happen then). The ending might knock you for a loop!
June 10, 2012
The Matrix before The Matrix, and a lot better.
June 5, 2012
Not my favorite Fassbinder, but the film is certainly ahead of its time.
½ May 31, 2012
I'm still more of an admirer of RWF than an actual fan. Perhaps German cinema is not my thing. Engrossing Sci Fi story drearily-told and way too long for its own good. One full star for my admiration of Gunter Lamprecht.
Super Reviewer
May 31, 2012
"World on a Wire" is a very bizarre and complex film of the science-fiction genre that is very noir-like and haunting in it's visuals and narrative. The film is a slow and atmospheric look into a dystopic future involving a super advanced computer that can be used to create alternate worlds that people can go into using advanced programs. This is very much like "The Matrix" but more focused on mood and character development than action and entertainment. While I enjoyed the film immensely and was fascinated with it's visuals, especially the use of mirrors and varying angles and camerawork used, it also tended to drag in places and have a very loose narrative structure. For someone who appreciate complex science-fiction films that play off atmosphere and mood, this is one of the best and most fascinating from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
½ May 29, 2012
A dystopic science-fiction epic, World on a Wire is German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder's gloriously cracked, boundlessly inventive take on future paranoia. With dashes of Kubrick, Vonnegut, and Dick, but a flavor entirely his own, Fassbinder tells the noir-spiked tale of reluctant action hero Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch), a cybernetics engineer who uncovers a massive corporate and governmental conspiracy. At risk? Our entire (virtual) reality as we know it. This long unseen three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the weird world of tomorrow from one of cinema's kinkiest geniuses.
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