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Nothing short of a masterpiece
This film is exceptional. I can't quite put into words just how special it is. It goes beyond good filmmaking, it invites us into the characters' world and lets us feel as though we're there with them, experiencing what they're experiencing. Indeed, it's as much a ride as it is a film; you don't just imagine you belong to this experience, you forget to reconsider whether you are in fact there in real time.
The dialogue is so natural and flawless that you'd find it hard to believe there was a script. Despite this, it never loses direction or meaning the words spoken all work towards a grand purpose, propelling the plot forward, hinting at histories unexplored, and welcoming the viewer into this familiar world, this Berlin, as seen through the eyes of these characters. There are a couple of hiccups along the way, words mistaken for others, but these merely evoke laughter from the characters, and us, their companions, as a familiar slip of the tongue. And we have all had these conversations: we've all met drunks, and been drunk with them, talking nonsense, and allowing our inebriation to see beyond their flaws. So, dialogue brings us in; it lets us belong to this group.
The single shot solidifies the experience. How can you not feel a part of this film when you haven't left it, have seen it all, all that those involved have seen. You are a bystander, not an outsider. And, thus, when things go right or wrong, we feel this with an intensity not often familiar. Not familiar because we are indeed merely viewers. But also not familiar because these are experiences we're not apt to ever experience, not in our wildest imagination. And thus it is a roller coaster upon which we are firmly mounted. I felt almost sick at times, distressed at all times, and almost wanting to shout at the characters to do something or abstain from doing something. I was there, I really felt I was there. And, leaving the cinema, I felt on something of a comedown from this incredibly stressful, frightening journey.
The acting, too, is phenomenal. The actress playing Victoria is spot on with each scene, perhaps initially aware of an appropriate countenance or tone, but, as the film develops, ostensibly losing herself to the night's trajectory, its dips and hurdles, and acting in the only way someone in that position would act. She has become the character. As for the others, they, too, give a fantastic and utterly believable performance, but perhaps their downfalls exist merely to support her own progression. These characters are cheap and dirty and ultimately lost, and, as they fall down, she stands high, as winner (someone who lost people who never really belonged to her). That is not to say these characters are vile or evil, but they are almost nothing, for us, they may as well be of no importance to anyone. We've known them for a short time, as has Victoria, and so they will die for her to survive. There could be no other way.
What else can be said? The film's progression is perfect, with the typical ebbs and flows of good filmmaking. We have times of suspense (a runaway car so naturally running dead), characters' mental stability falling to pieces, and an unyielding drive to keep going (united by friendship, the want for friendship, the feeling that there is nothing to lose).
Ultimately, I felt the events portrayed in this film had happened to me, largely because enough of it was familiar and believable enough to allow the less believable parts appear, as a consequence, relatively familiar. This is a film anyone should see. You will feel stress (as you spot a cop car), anxiety (as the car chases you), fear (as they shoot), despondency (as they die) and everything but nothing (when you realise what you've done, and what has happened). And while some scenes or moments do drag on a bit, you forgive the film and more, because life in real time (which this film is) doesn't always move and unfold as we hope.