Greetings again from the darkness. You have surely seen more complex and intricate bank robbery movies, but it’s doubtful you’ve seen one more ambitious from a technical standpoint. In a remarkable achievement of commitment, planning, and technical execution (plus some good luck), director Sebastian Schipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovler deliver 2 hours and 14 minutes with a single take and a low budget. It’s a testament to the cast and crew, as well as the advancements in digital equipment (mobility and battery life).
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, both utilized extended/seamless takes in fascinating manner; however, it’s Mr. Schipper’s film that takes us through multiple locations – a dance club, the streets of Berlin, the roof of a building, a local café, inside a stolen van, back to the dance club, through an inner city escape, and into a luxury hotel. That’s right … each of these puzzle pieces are generated without ever pausing the camera or editing a shot. You might expect nausea-inducing shaky cam, but instead it plays more like we viewers are along for the ride.
Beyond the technical goodies, we get two fine performances from Frederick Lau as the streetwise and smooth-talking Sonne, and especially Laia Costa as Victoria. The titular character is first spotted enjoying a sweaty dance to thumping club music before leaving the club and bumping into Sonne and his group of “real Berlin guys”. It all seems playful enough, but as the flirtations escalate between Victoria and Sonne, we sense things could become a bit more ominous. The first part of the film really allows us to get to know these two as they get to know each other. Victoria’s childhood story explains much about her reactions throughout the ordeal, and it’s also the point that we realize our infatuation with her is justified.
Things do in fact turn ominous for the group, and a criminal act conducted out of desperation leads to a few action-oriented sequences … each impressive in light of the single-shot approach. No CGI as a fallback and no carefully manipulated sets. Instead, the actors and camera must continue, no matter the glitches or obstacles that real time tosses in their path.
Run Lola Run (1998) may be the best comparison for the frantic pace, but in actuality, the film has no legitimate pairing given the 2 plus hours single shot approach. You may choose to see this for the technical achievement that it is, and the guess is you will be equally impressed with Ms. Costa.