Run Lola Run (1998)

Review #1,451

Director:  Tom Tykwer
Cast:  Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu
Plot:  After a botched money delivery, Lola has 20 minutes to come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks.

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Thriller
Awards:  Won Audience Award (Sundance).  Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice).  Nom. for 1 BAFTA - Best Foreign Language Film
Runtime:  80min
Rating:  PG for some violence and language
International Sales:  Bavaria Film International

“The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory.  Off we go!”

Tom Tykwer isn’t exactly a great filmmaker, but he made one of the most exhilarating thrillers of the 1990s.  Competed for the Golden Lion at Venice, Run Lola Run is a postmodern work of high energy and stylistic excess, in the vein of a race-against-time movie with a high-concept premise: Lola (Franka Potente) must find 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes for her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), before he is compelled to rob a major supermarket. 

It’s a life-or-death situation for Manni as he is tasked to return the dough, which he inexplicably lost, to his uncompromising mob boss.  Set to the rhythmic tempo of an electronic score by Tywker himself and co-composers Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek, Run Lola Run moves along kinetically, an effect wildly accentuated not only by its soundscape, but through the flashy editing—sometimes literally the flashing of still photos of certain characters' past (or is it future?) whom Lola crosses paths with—and dazzling camerawork that gives us all manner of shot angles. 

The stylistic devices employed may seem superfluous to the uninitiated, or pretentious to the cynic, but for a film that is largely inspired by video games and MTV, it feels just about right.  Structured in three main ‘acts', with each part resetting the clock to when Lola begins her mission, Tykwer's work is one of those films that liberates itself from time, even if it is constrained by it. 

From a more philosophical point-of-view, Run Lola Run is about the tension between the random and the predestined.  The people whose paths we cross form an interconnected web of chance and fated encounters, irreversibly affecting each own path.  The constant mutability of this web gives life its flavourful unpredictability, marked by the twin poles of opportunity and tragedy. 

Of course, Run Lola Run only just manages to graze the surface of its own philosophy, trading substance for style.  But for what it is, the film is surprisingly thoughtful in its portrayal of human connectedness, between strangers and the familiar.

Run Lola Run was one of the first films I saw that opened the window for me to foreign language films back when I was a college kid in 2005.  Considering the sheer breadth and depth of world cinema, Tykwer’s film remains an entertaining oddity—like Lola herself, a problem child with flamed hair and all.  It is also one of contemporary German cinema’s high points before the turn of the century.  I bet people were gasping at how gleefully fun a German film could be, if it wanted to. 

Verdict:  This unpredictable and exhilarating race-against-time thriller, shot and edited in an innovative hyper-kinetic style, is one of contemporary German cinema’s high points before the turn of the century.


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