Movie Review: ‘VICTORIA’ – Shoo, Birdman!


Preston Barta // Features Editor

VICTORIA | 138 min | Not Rated
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit and Max Mauff

In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock released ROPE, a crime thriller starring James Stewart that consisted of only 11 takes. It was Hitchcock’s intention to make the film appear to be one, continuous shot. However, the technology was not up to speed.

Since then, we have seen Academy Award-winning filmmakers such as Alejandro G. Inarritu (BIRDMAN) try their hand at the technique with a daring, yet bold illusion of a single-take film. However, like ROPE, BIRDMAN still used smoke and mirrors to distract from its cuts.

This is where German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper comes in.

Schipper (SOMETIME IN AUGUST) wrangled the logistics and put together the ultimate, immersive ride, putting the viewer in the driver’s seat. His English and German powerhouse of a film, VICTORIA, follows a runaway party girl, Victoria (an intoxicating Laia Costa), who joins a friendly quartet of men (Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit and Max Mauff) on a journey around town.

Little does she know she’s going to become the wheelwoman of a bank heist before the night is over.

VICTORIA is an undeniable technical achievement. For more than two hours, you follow the title character’s footsteps in adventure, alternatively strolling and sprinting through 22 different locations throughout Berlin. Schipper’s style will floor you and leave you wondering how he pulled it off.

Frederick Lau and Laia Costa share a sweet moment before engaging in a robbery. Photo courtesy of Adopt Films.

Frederick Lau and Laia Costa share a sweet moment before engaging in a robbery. Photo courtesy of Adopt Films.

The opening sequence alone is invigorating and sets up the film in a big way. White strobe lights and pulsing techno beats fade in, while the camera slowly brings Victoria into focus, dancing at an underground nightclub. From there, the film establishes what could be a romantic drama. With the charming glances between its leads and its angelic musical score played underneath, your heart will be in your throat, as the halfway mark ropes you into a non-stop flight that descends into hell.

Unlike previous one-take films, VICTORIA is not solely a technical demonstration reel.

The film gives audiences the before, during and aftermath of a bank robbery, adding more fuel to the tension. A pigeonhole is the last place you’ll find VICTORIA. Its bold, often fierce narrative occasionally sprawls and goes in unexpected, yet welcome directions. The film’s few false steps are quickly forgiven as its strong cast maintains the film’s grand sense of realism. Leads Costa and Lau pick up the slack whenever its kinetic energy begins to wan.

To no one’s surprise, the cinematography is daring and audacious. It’s a stunning achievement that wildly contributes toward constructing a naturalistic atmosphere. And while the finished product may not equal the sum of its parts, VICTORIA knows that. It unfolds in real-time and hits life’s imperfections and meandering beats along the way, transcending the crime drama into something of rare beauty.

Grade: A

VICTORIA is now playing in theaters today.

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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.