OK, I'll confess. I'm German. To me, there wasn't anything "foreign" about Run Lola Run. I recognized the Berlin street corners she passes on her way through the city. I didn't even have to read the subtitles. Watching this movie in a theater in New Orleans made me more than a little bit homesick. So, to be up front about it: When I tell you I loved this movie, I'm biased.
But don't let that put you off. Even if you don't recognize the grocery store, this may well be the best movie you'll see all year.
First thing: it's fast. Even on second viewing, there is not a dull moment in the movie. From the heartpounding start and the lightning-speed exposition to the quirky final credits, this movie grabs you by the throat and, well, runs with it.
The conceit is simple: Lola (played by the wonderful Franka Potente) is in trouble. If she can't come up with 100,000 marks, her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) will die. The catch: she has only twenty minutes to come up with the money. Lola's race to save her lover is repeated three times with minor variations that lead to widely different endings. It's Groundhog Day on ecstasy.
Lola succeeds on all counts: it is a thrill ride that out-runs every other contender playing right now; it is a stylish visual feast that succeeds artistically by employing its tricks and gimmicks in ways that heighten the impact of the story; and it succeeds emotionally because we believe Lola's fear and love: a runner can't lie.
"Run Lola Run" is set in a brightly-colored fairy-tale world in which the elements of the story can be rearranged and connected at will. To see director Tom Tykwer play with nuns, bums, guns, crooks, bankers, ambulances, and policemen is pure delight - it's as if we were granted a glance at the creative process itself, three different drafts of the same story, revised and rearranged until the final version satisfies.
There is a study of chance, time, and fate hidden somewhere beneath the techno soundtrack. A pet turtle, a set of falling dominoes: there are details in this film that carry meaning you won't catch until a second viewing, but the mixture is nothing short of perfect: the deeper levels of German ponderousness, for those who enjoy this kind of thing, are buried deep enough to allow those of us who are just into it for the sheer exhilaration of watching Franka Potente run to not worry about any of it.
And she can run.