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Victoria (5 stars)

Electrifying and engrossing one-shot thriller from Sebastian Schipper

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Victoria

Sebastian Schipper’s sensational thriller is the real deal, 138-minutes of drama captured in just one take. The action unspools on the streets of Berlin as an innocent young woman falls for a dubious man and ends up embroiled in a daring heist with tragic consequences.

Single, continuous shots are nothing new, from Hitchcock’s Rope in 1948 to 2014’s Birdman, but there’s usually some subterfuge involved. For his fourth feature, actor-turned-director Schipper has come up with an original, kinetic reason to deliver the story in this manner, with the technique perfectly in tune with the breathless nature of events.

Spaniard Victoria (Laia Costa) is heading home after a night of clubbing when she falls in with a gang led by Sonne (Frederick Lau), who entices her to a nearby rooftop to smoke pot and drink stolen booze. In the café where she works, Sonne and Victoria open up to each other as she plays the piano, but an accident with one of Sonne’s men offers Victoria a fateful opportunity to get involved with his criminal world.

Schipper’s outrageous shooting strategy is more than a gimmick, it gives his film a virtually unique selling point. Victoria wears its heart on its sleeve, it’s a tender love story played out on an epic scale. And the one-shot ethic might seem to offer limited options, but the succession of visceral action wouldn’t disgrace a big budget Michael Mann thriller.

The young cast provide uniformly adrenalized performances, with Lau supplying Brando-like moodiness, and the immense complexities involved in shooting on location chime nicely with the heist theme. The plot may betray more than a few holes when viewed in retrospect, but they’re more than papered over by a raw sense of ‘you are there’ immediacy. The result is an electrifying slice of cinema that is likely to be frequently imitated, but rarely improved upon.

General release from Fri 1 Apr.

Victoria

  • 5 stars
  • 2015
  • Germany
  • 138 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Sebastian Schipper
  • Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
  • UK release: 1 April 2016

Victoria (Costa), a Spanish girl holidaying in Berlin, is heading home after a night of clubbing when she falls in with Sonne (Lau) and becomes embroiled in his gang's criminal activities. Sensational, breathless thriller shot entirely in one take, with the technique perfectly in tune with the adrenalised story.

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