Run Lola Run (Lola rennt)

Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Year: 1998
Cast: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup

★★★★☆

A wise philosopher, who happened to be staying on my sofa for a few days, told me that we will continue living until we accept that it is our time to die. Life is a continual refusal to die. We say no, no, no, and then, at one point, it becomes our time to say yes, and we die in a moment of acceptance. Run Lola Run presents a similar philosophy, giving its characters a degree of control over their destiny. “Nein,” says Lola (Franka Potente), and, despite bleeding to death, she lives.

Run Lola Run is an overtly philosophical film. It opens with choice quotations from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, never a bad thing, although it is unfortunately in German, and Sepp Herberger, one of football’s most original intellectuals. It asks a series of questions about the mysteries of the human race before any action can begin. But, the ball is round. The film is 90 (well, 81) minutes. And even if we end up where we started, we have to get going just the same.

Do I seriously have to run again?

A snappy telephone exchange between Lola and her hapless boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), establishes the conflict. Manni owes a dangerous man 100,000 marks, which he clumsily left on a train to be picked up by a hobo. Lola is partly responsible as she was his getaway driver and turned up too late. He has 20 minutes to come up with the money, and his brightest idea is to rob a supermarket. It is up to Lola to rescue him from his fate. But she is going to have to run.

The running scenes are endless but fantastic. Franka Potente looks wonderful in motion, with her bright red hair, bright green trousers, and unreliable bra strap slipping off and on beneath her vest. The soundtrack is great as well, recorded by writer/director Tom Twyker, and it perfectly compliments the playful intensity of the action. Twyker’s direction is inventive and varied, switching between different types of film, animation, and Polaroid snaps which outline the futures of a cast of minor characters that Lola flashes by. Due to the film’s repetitive nature, it is important for Twyker to keep things interesting, and he definitely succeeds in that. The pace is varied, switching effortlessly from hectic running sequences to soap opera drama to lazy pillow-talk philosophising. There are plenty of good jokes too, which rely heavily on dramatic irony.

The main sequence is repeated three times, with subtle changes that have far-reaching effects. A moment’s difference can make all the difference. An innocuous decision can change your future and the future of everyone around you. Some things are meant to be. Others are not.

There is nothing groundbreaking in any of this. The phrase MTV generation pops up regularly when reading about the film, and it is apt in the more positive sense of the phrase. Run Lola Run is fast-paced, bite-sized philosophy, but it’s presented in a way that still seems fresh and interesting. It’s a riff rather than a symphony, but one that I expect my wise philosopher would appreciate.

Rob Dickie

Hanna

Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Year: 2011
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

★★★★☆

Hanna was marketed as a reasonably conventional thriller. Fortunately, it turned out to be anything but conventional.

The title character is a specially-bred 16-year-old assassin, played by the excellent Saoirse Ronan, who has spent her entire life being trained by her father, Erik (Eric Bana), in a northern European forest. She has no experience of the outside world, knowing only what Erik has taught her, namely some impressive combat skills, verbatim encyclopedic facts, just about every language in existence, and a smattering of the Brothers Grimm. A rather drawn out opening sequence at the forest hideout establishes Hanna’s skills and character, and we learn something about her relationship with Erik. She then decides that she is ready to go out into the world, but not without first assassinating Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the villain of the piece.

The first scene of genuine interest involves Hanna’s escape from a holding facility, which looks like a combination of Area 51 and the headquarters of a Bond villain. The score is by The Chemical Brothers, and you get the impression that the action sequences were written more for the music than the other way around. The escape scene is highly-stylised industrial grandeur, all metal ducts and looming grey blocks. Later, Erik fights a group of government assassins in a garish orange room and there is another excellent scene at a cargo dock. All could conceivably be expensive music videos. Hanna is worth seeing for the score alone.

Hanna combines splendidly over-the-top visuals with The Chemical Brothers’ block rockin’ beats

The holding facility from which she escapes turns out to be in Morocco, and there she is forced to adapt to the real world, whether this involves bonding with a holidaying family or adapting to the horrors of modern technology via a somewhat slapstick panic attack. Around this stage, I was losing patience with the film. Despite some impressive acting and cinematography, it gets rather messy. The tone shifts so frequently that you don’t know where you stand. It moves too casually between being a serious thriller, a kitsch action film and a coming of age tale. Nothing seems to be holding it together.

Surprisingly, it achieves cohesion through a combination of fairy tale elements and surrealism. The more implausible moments, such as Hanna skipping through a campsite with her new best friend, right under the noses of her pursuers, gradually make sense. Her innocence and relationship with the world become more meaningful. Cate Blanchett really comes into her own as her character is transformed from government conspirator to Big Bad Wolf, and Tom Hollander gives a fantastic against-type performance as the perverse assassin Isaacs.

The more absurd Hanna gets, the stronger it gets, and by the time the characters converge on Wilhelm Grimm’s house, an abandoned amusement park, it is very entertaining indeed. As when you enter the houses in the fairy tales, things quickly take a turn for the worse. The conclusion is menacing and very surreal. At one point I thought Marissa had turned into a deer. Why shouldn’t she have?

Hanna would have been a better film if it had kept this kind of tone from the beginning. The first hour or so only works in retrospect. The inconsistency undermines the strong acting, visuals and especially the soundtrack. But once it gets past the silliness of taking itself seriously, it becomes a very watchable fairy tale thriller.

Rob Dickie