Movie Review: ‘VICTORIA’ – Shoo, Birdman!

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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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.