Generations of film theorists have written about the violence of the cut. Editing lets a filmmaker shape reality, which is why politicians prefer to do important interviews live.
So this German heist thriller, filmed in 22 locations in a single dazzling, dizzying take, is more than simply an astounding cinematic stunt - though it certainly is that. By depicting its action in real time, it achieves a naturalism that is as much psychological as narrative: a six-block taxi journey takes as long as a six-block taxi journey takes - we don't see just the start and end - and nothing much happens en route. More important, it's the kind of nothing, breathless and stuttering, that people who had just escaped from a shootout, as the two taxi passengers have, would engage in.
This is not to suggest the film drags. Occasional longueurs are part of its essence, not least because much of the dialogue that drives its propulsive script is largely improvised. The title character is a Spanish woman on a working holiday in Berlin.
In the first scene, Victoria leaves a nightclub and, cycling home, is accosted by a quartet of young men. Their well-lubricated state may put us on alert, but it transpires that they are fun-loving, even sweet.
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Late-night, innocent romance blooms with the puppyish Sonne (Lau) but, an hour in, as we begin to relax, a much darker danger emerges: one of the quartet owes a favour to a former cellblock protector and it's called in. Suddenly we are in the middle of a headlong heist in which Victoria is the getaway driver and for the next hour the pace barely lets up.
The action unfolds with heartstopping precision (the stalling of a hotwired car is one of many inspired moments) but what makes the movie more than its single-shot shtick is the persuasive charm of its performances, particularly that of Costa, who looks strikingly like a young Carey Mulligan. It's a virtuoso display by everybody, not least cameraman Sturla Brandth Grovlen, and composer Nils Frahm's varied score, part electronica, part cello and piano is superb.
It's a remarkable achievement, a visceral experience in which - in contrast to the meretricious Birdman - the technique never overwhelms substance. Highly recommended as one of the year's best.
Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff
Director: Sebastian Schippe
Running Time: 138 mins
Rating: R16 (violence, offensive language, drug use) In English and German with English subtitle
Verdict: One-shot wonder