I first caught sight of Run Lola Run on a late night TV programme about new European cinema. It looked great but I figured it was destined for Euro art house obscurity and wouldn't see a theatrical release here in the UK. But, thank goodness, I was wrong. The plot is deceptively simple. Manni has some dodgy drug money (DM100,000) that he must deliver to his heavyweight criminal boss. Problem is, Manni leaves the cash in a bag on the subway by mistake. When he realises, he has just 20 minutes before the bad man and his hoods come for the collection. If Manni doesn't have the money he will be killed. Can he possibly get DM100,000 by then? He calls his girlfriend Lola and pleads for her help. With the seconds rapidly ticking away, Lola must come up with the replacement cash and get it to Manni before the 20 minutes are up. Can she possibly pull it off, and if so how?
The plot is merely the starting point for Tykwer's adrenaline-pumping film which runs (literally!), for the most part, in real time. Lola doesn't own a car and cannot afford to wait for public transport, so the only answer is to run, as fast as she can, across the city, firstly to get the money, and secondly to get it to Manni before the boss arrives. Throughout this thrilling action, a superb techno soundtrack bangs away heightening the pulse rate and gripping the viewer. The multiple/alternate/repeating universe devices seen in Groundhog Day and Retroactive are employed in Run Lola Run to create impressive tension. We experience three alternate attempts by Lola to raise the money. Better for you that you know as little about the detail of these attempts as the unexpected is what makes this film so pleasurable to watch first time around. Tykwer direction is perfect - all impatient camera movements, fast edits, zip pans, fast motion and even animation is thrown into the mix.
But saving the film from a possible MTV-implode is the intelligence that Tykwer brings to the script. As Lola repeats her attempts at securing the money she passes the same people and places but at slightly different times. These few seconds making all the difference to the outcome of subsequent events. The different outcomes touch on some heavyweight themes but Tykwer wisely leaves them to float around the viewer's (sub)conscious if desired rather than force them upon us. There's plenty of dark humour too like when we flash forward into the future to see the highlights of the lives of some of the familiar passers by. No description of Run Lola Run, no matter how eloquent, can convey its impact when viewing it on a cinema screen. It's just a shame that many more will come to this via their homes where the experience simply won't be the same.
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