Run Lola Run Movie Review
Every tick of the 81 minutes in "Run Lola Run" is pounding with kinetic energy and double-espresso adrenaline, like a marathon inside a rave inside a fusion reactor.
It's a movie that takes hold of not just your senses -- like a roller coaster does -- but your brain and spirit as well, tripping the mind fantastic with cascading freeform flashes of anticipation, panic, passion, desperation, hesitation, fear and fervor that is at once utterly exhilarating and absolutely exhausting.
The film, a festival circuit smash hit from Germany that's already become a pop culture phenomenon in Europe, is deceptively simple in design:
Lola (Franka Potente), a strangely beautiful, somber, post-modern punk with a shock of flaming crimson hair, receives a phone call from her panic-stricken boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreau), a money-runner for a trigger-happy thug. He has lost a 100,000 Deutsche-mark delivery. If he can't produce the coin in 20 minutes, he will be dead. Lola is his only hope, but what can she do? She promises to be there with the money, but she doesn't know how.
The hardcore, techno-industrial soundtrack pounds as writer-director Tom Tykwer slips us inside Lola's mind. She flashes through a instantaneous catalog of dozens of faces -- who can help? Her father, the banker! Lola knows what she must do: Run.
She throws the phone in the air and takes off down the stairs of her apartment building in what becomes, briefly, a cartoon sequence, and begins a break-neck bolt through Berlin. Nineteen minutes and counting.
Tykwer follows her tightly, matching Lola's pace with hyperactive editing, but pausing for a moment each time she nearly plows someone over in the street to give the audience a flash forward of the rest of that stranger's life in a comedic three-second series of snapshots on the screen before resuming the pursuit of his heroine.
Lola gets to the bank, sweaty and determined, and finds something new to contend with -- catching her father with his mistress. She can't cope, she must stay focused. She begs for money. She lets out a glass-shattering scream and she finds herself on the street again, empty handed. It's now three minutes to go, and Manni, sensing doom, is about to rob a grocery store on the corner where he is to meet Lola and his boss. It's his last resort.
Will Lola make it? Two seconds could mean all the difference in the world.
When this first 20 minutes comes to a tragic end, Tykwer pauses the story to show a quiet, intimate moment between Lola and Manni in bed, engaging in circular logic pillow talk about love and fate. They are clearly smitten.
Then he rewinds the film to the end of Manni's phone call and does it all a second time, then a third time, examining how the smallest, split-second variations in circumstance can drastically change a person's whole life. Each segment visits the same territory but varies dramatically in the most minute ways -- even the strangers Lola encounters are the same, although their flash-forwards are not -- leading to wildly different outcomes for Lola's frantic rescue effort.
Tom Tykwer's direction is relentless, creative and completely absorbing. He takes the kind of music video techniques that have become the tiresome hallmark of American action movies and reinvents them, continually cutting every scene with different camera angles, flashes of black-and-white and shots on low-grade video instead of film.
It sounds annoying, I know, and truth be told, if anyone tries to imitate this style, they'll bomb. But what seems like stream-of-consciousness filmmaking is, in fact, Tykwer tweaking every frame of film to perfection.
Like the opening chase scene from "Trainspotting" for 81 minutes straight, "Run Lola Run" never stops moving. Almost every second is more kinetic than the last. There's been a string of reality-bending "what if" movies lately -- it started with "Sliding Doors," the Gwyneth Paltrow import in which she lives parallel lives. But there's never been anything quite like "Run Lola Run." I can't wait to see it again, and again, and again.