- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
efore Jennifer Garner ever donned a single candy-colored wig on the ABC spy drama “Alias,” Franka Potente was busy making a name for herself as the Kool-Aid red-haired protagonist of “Run Lola Run.” One of many experimental films to come out of the late 90s indie movement, the German crime drama received an overwhelmingly positive reception during its overseas release, and after revisiting the film a decade later, you'd be surprised at just how well it holds up. But while “Run Lola Run” isn’t quite as effective as it was back in 1998 – when techno music was the lifeblood of twentysomethings and foreign cinema was considered hip and edgy – it remains one of the most original (and exhilarating) movies you'll ever see.
Potente stars as Lola, a young woman who’s just received a distressing phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). After joining a local gangster on his latest crime spree, Manni has amateurishly forgotten the bag of loot on a subway train. With only 20 minutes to come up with 100,000 marks (or risk suffering the backlash of his homicidal boss), Manni looks to Lola for help with the cash. Determined to prevent her foolish beau from robbing a nearby supermarket, Lola embarks on a citywide sprint to save the day. The events that follow are a series of existential what-ifs, as Lola’s 20-minute mad-dash across Berlin is shown via three alternate versions – all with their own unique interactions, chain reactions and conclusions.
It’s a cinematic take on the theoretical Butterfly Effect, with the exception that Lola is the one who’s controlling her fate. While some may find this setup to be a little pretentious (after all, isn’t giving your character multiple chances to succeed considered cheating?), most will recognize what director Tom Tykwer is trying to accomplish. He likens the story to a football match in the opening minutes (“The ball is round. A game lasts 90 minutes. Everything else is pure theory.”), and while the game metaphor certainly works, it also comes off as a little nihilistic.
Depressing philosophical beliefs aside, “Run Lola Run” is a pretty uplifting experience, and though stars Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu both deliver solid performances, it would all mean nothing without Tom Tykwer’s direction. The German-born filmmaker brings a certain kinetic energy that goes beyond the eye-popping visuals and beat-thumping soundtrack. It’s like a silent film shot in bright, radioactive colors, with the story taking precedence over even the most dominant elements. True, the story gets off to a slow start, but once it completes the initial run-through, Tykwer kicks it into high gear and never looks back.
In fact, the second half of the film is almost as much a blur as the quick-cut images of Lola sprinting down the street, and while this would usually be a problem for most movies, it works to its advantage here. This is a film that is not only unafraid to try something new, but is willing to do so three times in a row. You’re not going to find that in your average Hollywood production – especially one that is able to challenge the viewer and get him out of the theater in less than 90 minutes.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Aside from an expected improvement in both the audio and video, there’s not a whole lot separating this Blu-ray release from the standard DVD that you already own. The commentary track with Tykwer and Potente is still the highlight of the disc, while the music video for “Believe” also appears. The only HD-exclusive bonus material is a production featurette (“Still Running”) that offers a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, and though it’s a nice addition to the sparse collection of extras, it’s simply not worth updating your standard version for. Nevertheless, “Run Lola Run” is exactly the type of movie that excels on the hi-def format, but unless you’re a diehard fan, you’d probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.