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A review of Run Lola Run
by Robert A. Fulkerson

What would you do if the love of your life called you up and said that he was going to be killed if he didn't have 100,000 dollars to pay off some mafia-types? What if he then told you that he only had 20 minutes until he needed the money? Would you panic? Would you be able to come up with the money? If so, how?

Director: Tom Twyker

Stars: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaap, Armin Rohde

Rating: R

Release: 06-18-1999

Time: 79 minutes

Buy Movie at Amazon.com This is the premise of Run Lola Run, an exciting film written and directed by Tom Tykwer. Franka Potente plays Lola, the red-haired twenty-something who gets the call that her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). Manni and Lola are small-time crooks who do the grunt work for bigger German mafia bosses. Usually, Lola is there at the pickup point to drive the getaway car when Manni's done with a job. Today, however, she wasn't there, and things went downhill quickly.

Manni waited for Lola at the pickup point, but when she didn't show, he began to get nervous and ended up walking to the subway station to get a ride home. When he was on the subway, a vagrant stumbled and fell down in front on him. On edge anyway, Manni panicked when the vagrant fell at his feet. Without thinking, he dashed off the subway car to get away from the bum, leaving the plastic bag with 100,000 DM in it on the subway seat. The vagrant, nothing more than a vagrant and not actually part of a plot to kill Manni or make an actual pickup, became instantly rich.

In a series of extremely creative and frenetic shots, Tykwer tells us the story of Lola's twenty-minute run three times. After the initial plot setup, we watch as Lola scrambles out of the apartment building she lives in. At times, as in the dash out of the building, Tykwer uses animation instead of live action to help convey the frantic energy that is pulsing through Lola's body.

During the first version of her mad run, she decides that seeing her father at the bank he works at would be the best way to score a quick 100,000 DM. She visits him and interrupts a rendezvous with his lover. Lola doesn't make it to Manni on time, or with the money, and they end up robbing the grocery store across the street from the phone booth he made the call from.

The second version of the film sees Lola successfully hold up her father's bank. This time through, we get to see some of the same things as in the first run-through, but in other places the outcome of events is slightly different. Tykwer gives us flash-forward shots of individual people's lives through a series of snapshots following an "And then " subtitle. These are extremely creative uses of the storyline, and lead us to later ask ourselves, "Do the choices we make every day, even the mundane ones, really make that much of a difference in our own lives, let alone the lives of others?" Tykwer would have you believe that they do.

During her last run, Lola actually misses her father at the bank and ends up betting a single dollar at the casino. Meanwhile, Manni has discovered the vagrant who stole his bag of money and he goes for a run of his own, chasing the bum around the streets of Germany while Lola is at the Casino.

Run Lola Run is an extremely fun, creative use of film. Tykwer, not directly tied to the production factory that is Hollywood, is able to be far more daring in his choice of shots and storytelling than he might be able to working for a big American studio. Potente is perfectly cast as the energetic fireball Lola. By the end of the film, I was exhausted by trying to keep up with Lola as she ran (and ran, and ran) and from the kinetic soundtrack. It was a good, satisfied exhaustion that I hope Tykwer delivers again, and American directors study.