This film is not a movie; it's not about a bank robbery. It is bank robbery. Victoria was shot in one single take. Two hours and eighteen minutes. No cuts. No CGI. No cheap tricks. No expensive ones, either. Just one shot.
Victoria, a young woman from Madrid, meets four local Berliners outside a nightclub. Sonne and his friends promise to show her a good time and the real side of the city. But these lads have gotten themselves into hot water: they owe someone a dangerous favor that requires repaying that evening. As Victoria's flirtation with Sonne deepens into something more, he convinces her to come along for the ride. And later, when things become more ominous and possibly lethally dangerous for Sonne, she insists on coming along. As the night takes on an ever more menacing character, what started out as a good time, quickly spirals out of control.
As dawn approaches, Victoria and Sonne address the inevitable: it s all or nothing and they abandon themselves to a heart-stopping race into the depths of hell.
The problem with many critics these days is that they'll watch a movie like 'Victoria' and because it has a particular technical achievement – in this case, a movie that is performed in a continuous one-take shot – denote a brilliance to the film that simply doesn't exist. Yes, the fact that 'Victoria' was shot in a single take is impressive. That doesn't, however, change the fact that it's a poorly acted, poorly structured story that most are going to find to be a tremendous bore to sit through.
The movie has been directed by Sebastian Schipper, who is also an actor who has performed in a number of movies, perhaps most notably Run Lola Run, of which 'Victoria' takes a smidgen of inspiration. Schipper's movie stars Laia Costa as the lead character, who meets up with a young group of men outside of a German nightclub. They invite her to follow them around the city, and – being particularly taken with one of them named Sonne (Frederick Lau) – she agrees.
It takes the movie time...a long time (almost the first full hour) for the plot to reveal where it's actually going. As it turns out, one of the four young men Victoria is hanging out with, Boxer (Frank Rogowski), is in the debt of a local criminal, who Boxer did a prison term with. The bad guy wants them to perform a heist on a local bank, where they'll pay him a certain amount of what they rob and then be allowed to keep the rest. 'Victoria' doesn't do a very good job of the hows and whys of this bank job, but viewers at this point will just be glad the characters are actually doing something interesting for a change.
The heist is successful, but the police soon find out about Victoria and her group, and the rest of the movie features them – and eventually just Victoria and Sonne – trying to escape from the authorities. Of course, there's nothing particularly original about this, other than the fact that the movie tries to sell us on the fact that Victoria and Sonne really care about one another, even though the continuous shot aspect contradicts that (seriously, this girl has known this guy for less than two hours...how attached to him can she really be?).
The entertainment value here has nothing to do with the storyline, but rather the way the movie was shot. It's interesting to see how the director has planned out his film, going from one location to the next, and knowing that one major screw up by the actors and they'll have to start all over again. But that also leads to 'Victoria's biggest fault. It's pretty obvious watching the movie that the director gave the actors no set script...but probably just instructions on where to go and what 'points' to hit in their dialogue in each location. The lack of scripted dialogue is all-too-evident in 'Victoria" and it's one of the reasons the movie doesn't work. The actors look like they're making things up as they go along...because they are making things up. Again, any tension that the movie derives from the viewer has more to do with wondering what mistakes are going to be made (and there are a few) rather than what twist or turn the storyline might take next.
So, in the end, 'Victoria' is little more than experimental film – something students and film buffs will want to look at and study, but also something that the 'average' movie watcher isn't going to derive a whole lot of entertainment from. And while some may say the single-shot achievement here alone makes 'Victoria' noteworthy, for me a movie lives or dies with its acting and story, and there's nothing here of note.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Victoria' hits the streets on Blu-ray in a standard keepcase that houses the dual-layer 50GB disc. Although being distributed by Kino Lorber, you won't find their logo on the keepcase slick or front-loaded onto the Blu-ray. In fact, there are no front-loaded materials at all, just a main menu still of the title character and a single option: 'Play Feature'.
The Blu-ray is region-free.
'Victoria' was shot completely on a Cannon EOS C300, which may explain why the movie is presented using the MPEG-2 codec instead of the more standard AVC/MPEG-4. The movie doesn't look very good on Blu-ray, but given the source material I'm not sure MPEG-4 would have made much difference. The movie is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
While the film does suffer from a bit of banding here and there and an overall lack of depth, the biggest problem for me were the black levels, which are just average at best. Since so much of this movie takes place at night, there's a lot of scenes that are very murky looking. Macroblocking is an occasional problem as well, and those with particularly large screens may find themselves distracted by it. Skin tones tend to vary depending on the location and how well it is lit.
I suppose 'Victoria' isn't the kind of movie one goes into expecting wonderful cinematography and beautiful visuals, and I know so much of the quality here is due to the source material, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a less-than-stunning visual experience.
Believe it or not, the audio on this release is worse that the video – at least when we're talking about the featured 5.1 English Dolby Digital track. For some inexplicable reason, whomever mixed this 5.1 track didn't separate any sounds...instead the same audio comes from all five of the speakers. The result is audio that not only sounds odd, but comes off as muffled and muddy. Everyone sounds like they're mumbling and turning up the volume just makes the mumbling louder instead of making things clearer.
Although not part of the menu selections (you'll need to use your player remote), there's actually also an 2.0 English Dolby Digital track on this disc and trust me when I say it's the one you want to watch this movie listening to. The dialogue here is much more natural and understandable and so much clearer than the 5.1 track that I'm shocked the 5.1 wasn't nixed completely for this release.
There are no subtitle options on the Blu-ray.
There are no bonus materials on this release.
While I hate to say that 'Victoria' isn't much more than a 'gimmick' movie, I'm afraid that's all it turns out to be. It's long and plodding and doesn't even begin to form a plotline until about an hour in. When it does, it's nothing we haven't seen before in better films with more talented actors. The only real interest in this movie is going to be for film aficionados, who want to enjoy and study the director's single-take effort. But for the vast majority of viewers out there, feel free to skip this one – you're not missing anything.