Run Lola Run (Germany, 1998)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Run Lola Run is one of those movies with the kind of advance buzz that it's impossible to ignore. A huge hit both at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival (where it made its North American debut) and at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the feature has already won over a legion of film critics. Run Lola Run is a must-see for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, innovative motion picture that refuses to be defined by norms of the genre. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most fun I have had at any movie thus far in 1999. Directed by Tom Tykwer, this German import is a kinetic meditation on fate and destiny. It tells the story of Lola (Franka Potente, an actress with true screen presence), a '90s girl with Raggedy Ann hair, a large tattoo, and a voice so penetrating that when she screams, she can shatter glass. She's also athletic, because, as one might expect from the title, Lola spends most of the movie running.

Her dim-witted boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), has lost 100,000 marks that he owes to the mob. Lola has 20 minutes to find that money and get it to Manni or he will be killed. So she takes to the streets, straining every resource to make the score before it's too late. Instead of just showing us one of Lola's approaches, however, Twyker gives us three to choose from, throwing us into the Sliding Doors/Blind Chance alley of alternate realities. You can essentially pick your own ending, each of which offers its share of irreverent surprises. Sandwiched in between the alternative storylines are soft-focus scenes of Lola and Manni reflecting on life and love. These sequences serve a dual purpose: to allow us to catch our breath and to deepen our sympathy for these two intensely likable characters.

Saturated with irony, the film moves at a blazing speed to the accompaniment of a relentless techno soundtrack; blink and you'll probably miss a thrown-in visual gag. Using an innovative mix of animation, still photography, slow motion, and normal cinematography, Twyker illustrates how the smallest change in what a person does can alter the rest of their life (not to mention the lives of others, including complete strangers they pass on the street). Film critic Harlan Jacobson called this a "90 minute MTV video," but, while that statement captures the film's spirit, it greatly shortchanges Run Lola Run, which has as much depth as it has energy and action.

Run Lola Run (Germany, 1998)

Ranked #6 in Berardinelli's Top 10 of 1999
Run Time: 1:21
U.S. Release Date: 1999-06-21
MPAA Rating: "R" (Sexual Situations, Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: English subtitled German
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1