Lola (Franka Potente, making an astonishing breakthrough) has got a problem: her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) has just lost 100,000 marks of drug money, and will be killed in 20 minutes if he doesn't get it back. From there, Lola starts a journey in which she bumps into an aggressive mother, causes a car accident, is told some damning news by her father and causes havoc with a gun. When she fails her objective, she refuses to be defeated, and the film rewinds right back to the start, for her to try again.
Clearly influenced by films like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting, and having an influence on the films of Edgar Wright, German director Tom Tykwer's 1998 thriller Run Lola Run is quite simply one of the most exciting, fast paced and imaginative thrillers of the nineties. From the opening animated title sequence, the long tracking shots of Lola's journey and the original flourishes (photo sequences show us the probable future of various characters Lola bumps into), Run Lola Run feels like it can't allow itself to slow down, and it practically never does. The camerawork is some of the finest you'll see, twisting, flying and practically gliding down the beautifully shot streets of Germany. Though there are a few grainy, handheld style shots which do jar when contrasted with the fantastic cinematography of Lola's scenes, the rest of the film is just gorgeous to look at, and when you discover the film was made for under $2 million, it's astounding to see what you can do when you have infinite talent, infinite creativity and infinite energy.
While it is fair to say occasionally the running sequences do last too long and lose some of their energy, by the third go at success, you'll be on your seat. Director Tykwer knows how to make a dumb, fun thriller but he does manage to keep in a sense of the arthouse. What other action film features a character die and then flash to a long and cryptic bedroom conversation about love and death? Meanwhile, the use of the "try again" multiple versions of the same plot gives Tykwer the excuse to both have his cake and eat it; he's allowed to make a dark, complex indie flick with depressing outcomes and beloved character deaths, and still allow us to punch the air and cheer by the end, in which the puzzle perfectly falls into place and offers one of the most enjoyable final scenes of all time. All of these devices would be nothing without its titular star, but as the crimson haired, incredibly put-upon heroine of the piece, Franka Potente is brilliant. Later to be seen in The Bourne Identity, here she gives a performance that hits just about every note you could want her to hit; she's calm and intelligent when consoling Manni; completely despairing when her world begins to crash down; charming and loveable in the quieter, more romantic scenes; and simply a sheer badass when she takes matters into her own hands. Action cinema needs more kick-ass female leads like Potente in Run Lola Run, and she ranks right up there with Ellen Ripley and The Bride as one of the finest heroines in cinema.
With ultra kinetic visuals, a blackly comic and often very sad script, plenty of top notch action and a pitch perfect leading performance from Potente, Run Lola Run is one of the most insane thrill rides in all of action cinema, and fifteen years on from its original release, it's still as exciting, imaginative as influential as ever.