“Run Lola Run”
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-- T.S.Eliot, Little Gidding
Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run" begins with Lola (Franka Potente) receiving a phone call from her distraught boyfriend Manni. He is a small-time criminal and has lost 100,000DM belonging to his boss by accidentally leaving it on a train. After the doors of the train closed, he saw a homeless man pick up the bag of money but he was unable to get back onto the train before it left the station. Upon not seeing any trace of his money or the homeless man at the next station, Manni assumes the money is long gone.
Manni has to get the money within 20 minutes before his boss finds out, and plans to rob nearby supermarket. Lola urges him to wait and tells him she will organize the money. She decides to ask her father, who is a bank manager. In 81 minutes time of the film what we receive is three alternative versions of those 20 minutes, event sequences starting out identically but diverging quickly into three different realities on the basis of Lola's trifling encounter with a dog on a stair. The main part of the film is divided in three "runs". Each run starts from the same situation but develops differently and has a different outcome. Each run contains various flash-forward sequences, showing how the lives of the people that Lola bumps into develop after the encounter. In each run, those people are affected in different ways.
Lola starts running and encounters a punk with a dog in the staircase. The dog growls at her, causing her to sprint faster. Lola runs through the streets of Berlin towards her father's bank. On her way, she causes a car accident with a man later shown to be her father's colleague. When she arrives at the bank, Lola's father refuses to give her any money, telling her that he feels unappreciated at home, that he is leaving Lola and her mother for his mistress and that he isn't Lola's real father. Lola runs on to meet Manni, arriving a few moments after the deadline. Manni's robbery is already in progress; Lola decides to help him rob the store. The two flee on foot afterwards but find themselves surrounded by police, and a nervous police officer accidentally shoots Lola in the chest.
The scene fades out to show Lola and Manni talking in bed, with Lola questioning Manni about his love for her. Lola then says "Stop" and the film restarts at the point where she started running.
In the second run, the punk with a dog trips Lola, injuring her leg and causing her to limp slightly. She again causes a car accident involving the father's colleague. Lola arrives at the bank a few moments later because of her limp, which leaves enough time for her father's mistress to explain that she is pregnant by someone else. Lola hears more of the argument this time, and becomes infuriated. She robs her father's bank with a gun grabbed from the bank's security officer, and takes off with the money to meet Manni. When Lola reaches Manni he is run down by an ambulance as he crosses the street to meet her.
The scene again fades to Lola and Manni in bed, this time with the roles reversed: Manni questions Lola about her love for him.
The third time Lola is a split second faster, as she leaps over the punk on the steps. This time she doesn't cause an accident, and the business associate is able to pick up Lola's father. She misses her father completely and keeps on running. Lola enters a casino, buys a single 100-mark chip, and finds a roulette table. She wins two consecutive bets on the number "20", which gives Lola 126,000DM, more than enough money to help Manni. She hitches a ride in the ambulance from the previous runs, as it stops. The ambulance is carrying the security guard from her father's bank who has apparently suffered a heart attack. She takes his hand, and moments later, his heart rate begins to return to normal.
Meanwhile, Manni sees the homeless man who took his money in the beginning of the film. Manni chases him down and retrieves his money but, feeling sorry for him, gives him his gun in return. Lola arrives to find Manni stepping out of a car and shaking his boss's hand. The movie ends with Manni asking Lola what is in the bag she is carrying.
Run Lola Run" is a movie that demands active and attentive watching in order to piece together all the subtle causal connections among various events. It poses deeper existential questions worthy of greater thought.
(Review article from Wikipedia & Edited citations from “Chance, Chaos and Coincidence”)