I don't remember how I first heard about Run Lola Run. It seemed like talk of the film was simply in the air around the time of its release. Tom Tykwer's stylistically stunning tale of love and crime took the U.S. by storm in 1999 (the film was released in 1998 in Germany, but didn't reach our shores till the next year), a watershed year for film (the same year as American Beauty, Fight Club, and Eyes Wide Shut, among many other excellent works). The premise was intriguing. The style was dynamic. It felt fresh, new, and interesting. I haven't seen the movie since that time (almost ten years now!), so I was excited to revisit it on Blu-ray disc.
Lola (Franka Potente of Bourne Identity fame in a breakout performance) gets a call from Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), her lover. Manni works as a courier for a drug lord, but his last drop went wrong. While taking the payoff back on the subway, he accidentally loses the bag, containing 100,000 German marks (about $60,000 U.S. dollars). Now he has twenty minutes to make the money back, or his boss will kill him. This sends Lola on a mad dash to get the money somehow, in any way possible, before Manni decides to rob the market across the street to appease his employer.
Run Lola Run is a firecracker of a film. Structurally, the film plays almost like a gimmick. We see three possible scenarios of Lola trying to get the money, mostly from her father, who denies her. Each sequence is separated from the other by a flashback to Lola and Manni in bed, discussing each other and life. The film also makes small divergences from the main plot. Lola interacts briefly with various strangers throughout the picture, and director Tom Tykwer shows us snapshots of their lives after that point. And I do mean snapshots, single photos placed in rapid succession, almost like a flipbook. Tykwer even adds the sounds of a photo camera snapping shots.
That is just one of the many stylistic loops that Tykwer employs throughout the film. The movie uses 35mm, video, animation, slow motion, and many more tricks besides. Tykwer's other films prove that he is perfectly capable of telling a story conventionally, meaning that Run Lola Run has to be more than just a stylistic exercise. And it is. But the differing techniques give the film a madcap, carnival-esque feel that heightens the tension of Lola's three runs. It also ensures that the film never gets boring, given that you're seeing variations on a theme instead of a full length narrative. At times it can feel like sensory overload, but instead of distancing the audience, it draws them in, and gives them new textures to explore each time they watch it.
Franka Potente jumped off the screen as Lola, offering a performance of intensity and tenderness. She's determined to save Manni, but at the heart of her run is the worry that she'll fail. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and it makes her determination all the more stirring. Moritz Bleibtreu never gets enough credit for his role as Manni. He is the reason Lola runs in the first place, and while she is the emotional anchor, if you don't empathize with Manni, the movie doesn't work. If you can't understand why she would risk her life for him, then the film will be empty. So Bleibtreu's performance is just as vital in its way as Franka Potente's.
Looking back after ten years, Run Lola Run still feels quite impressive. While some of Tykwer's work has seeped into more mainstream venues, the film still feels very experimental. The way the film is edited to the music, the performances, the sheer chutzpah of it all remains a powerful feat. While Tykwer and Potente have gone on to do other things (sometimes together, sometimes not), both of them will always be associated with Run Lola Run. And I don't think either of them have a problem with that.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Sony presents Run Lola Run in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer. For fans of the film, this transfer is going to be a godsend. The first thing you'll notice is that the colors are stunningly vibrant and deep. The red of Lola's hair and the green foliage in the exterior scenes are especially lush. Detail is also strong, especially in the film's many close-ups. The image isn't flawless, however. For one thing, the print does have some dirt and dust. Also, at times, skin tones look like they've been artificially pushed. Aside from these flaws, this is the best Run Lola Run has looked in years.
Sony offers a German Dolby True HD 5.1 mix, along with an English Dolby True HD 5.1 dub. The German mix is the preferred audio format of choice, and it is frequently a whopper of a track. The sonic details of film really come to life, with ticking clocks, beating hearts, wailing sirens, and Potente's scream all standing out. The bass is also impressive, almost always pounding out the techno beats. The English dub is laughable, with all the emotional intensity of the original performances wiped away by voice actors so awful that even the world's cheapest anime would be embarrassed to use them. Stick with the original and enjoy. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The main extra on Run Lola Run is a commentary by writer/director Tom Tykwer and star Franka Potente. The track is relaxed and the two have fun while providing plenty nuggets of information. The only other major supplement is a new featurette produced exclusively for this Blu-ray disc called "Still Running." Presented in high defintion, the feature is a sixteen minute interview with Tykwer and Potente, inter cut with behind the scenes footage and other production materials. Pretty much all of the information is new, making it an excellent companion to the commentary. There's then the music video for the song "Believe" from the soundtrack, and some Blu-ray previews.
Run Lola Run could easily have been an empty stylistic exercise, but Tom Tykwer's vision and Franka Potente's powerful performance make the film a lasting experience. This Blu-ray disc offers excellent sound and image, and while it could have had more extras, we do get a nice commentary and a new exclusive high definition feature. Even ten years on, Run Lola Run is still a breathless ride. Highly Recommended.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.