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Laia Costa as Victoria and Frederick Lau as Sonne in the one-take movie Victoria (category IIB, German, English, Spanish, Turkish), directed by Sebastian Schipper.

Review | Film review: Victoria – brilliant one-take German heist thriller set in late-night Berlin

Great camerawork and sterling performances from a skeleton script mark this action-packed look at fate, split-second decisions and their implications

Film reviews

4/5 stars

While you might not know it if you watch Sebastian Schipper’s film unawares, Victoria is filmed entirely in one take. No cuts, no tricks ... just a 134-minute thriller that deftly, almost impossibly, weaves itself around 22 locations in Berlin.

As much as this sounds like dazzling showmanship by Schipper and his cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen – and it certainly is – this tale of one Spanish tourist’s night-time odyssey builds towards a devastating emotional crescendo that has little to do with dexterous camerawork.

Laia Costa stars as the titular waitress from Madrid, on a three month working trip to the German city. On a night out clubbing, she meets local lad Sonne (Frederick Lau) who convinces her to accompany him and his friends for an after-hours drink.

Things take a turn for the worse in the latter part of the film.

After some shy flirting, one thing leads to another – but not towards the climax you might expect. With Sonne’s friend Boxer (Franz Rogowski) indebted to an ex-con, these wannabe heavies are strong-armed into committing a bank robbery. With Victoria roped in as the getaway driver, the heist is pulled off with relative ease; but after the celebrations comes chaos.

If it sounds far-fetched – not least why Victoria didn’t just walk away from these coke-fuelled thugs before she got in too deep – it is. But, as it muses on the nature of fate and those irrational split-second moments that can change your life forever, it’s almost impossible, rather like Victoria, to not get swept up by the intensity of the situation.

Credit is due to all the actors for their deft work, but particularly the leads, improvising from a skeleton script. One can only imagine the quicksilver reactions needed to maintain performances, including an impressive piano recital by Costa at one point, across two-and-a-quarter hours.

Victoria finds herself at a loss on the streets of Berlin.

But what’s really remarkable is how, in the final scenes, you’ll forget this is a one-take wonder as the characters and story takes hold. Brilliantly engineered, coolly executed, Victoria is a triumph.

Victoria opens on August 18

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