Victoria ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Now and then a film will come along that critics will say you can't take your eyes off. This is one of those films.

Shot in a single continuous take with a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, Victoria is a technical marvel. It's no surprise that the guy holding the camera, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, gets the first namecheck in the closing credits. What he achieves, along with the director to map everything out, and the actors, who all give the most stunning of performances, somehow dealing with the pressure that knowing the slightest fuck up might mean they have to start all over again on a completely different night, which would contribute massively to the budget, is nothing short of special. It is executed so well, such is the fluidity and seamlessness of the camerawork, that sometimes it's easy to forget that there hasn't been a single cut. You almost have to pinch yourself.

In short - everybody involved with this deserves a fucking medal.

But away from the technicalities, Victoria exists as a damn fine story too, as we follow the titular young lady who after a night out befriends an unassuming group of likeable guys only to be roped into a bank robbery. Its one-take adds to the realism of the film along with the performances of all involved, with the vast majority of the dialogue being improvised. The heightened sense of realism means that on the rare occasion that an actor does mess up, such as calling a cafe a hotel or dropping a cigarette, that it actually works to the film's advantage.

Some argue that the first hour or so, before we have confirmation that these men are actually quite the shady sort, could be condensed, and they're right. With a more conventional approach Victoria and her new friends could have been introduced in 20 minutes, but all because you can do something doesn't mean you should. By giving us the chance to spend some extra time with the characters, as if we were actually a new member of the group alongside Victoria, it means the characterisation is much stronger in this than many other films. We feel as if we know these people because they feel so real. Their personalities shine through and the scariest thing isn't necessarily that they're criminals. It's not even the fact that they're the sort of people all of us may or could know. The scariest thing is that you like them, because of that realism, because we know them. Many of us don't know criminals in our lives and we may very well wonder how, when criminals are covered in the media, they can possibly have people that care about them. Victoria answers that question simply - because it's not the only thing that defines them, and chances are they're just a bunch of idiots that have made mistakes.

Others have argued that Victoria's decision to assist in the robbery is unbelievable, and they may have a point, but I would argue that people shouldn't underestimate what seemingly nice, friendly, good people are capable of. Victoria is clearly an easily impressionable character - a lot of women in a foreign country in which you can't speak the language understandably wouldn't go nightclubbing on their own and then accept an invitation from a group of strange men to a random rooftop. Sure, what Victoria does isn't what most people would do, but then that's why a film is being made about a character like Victoria rather than an introvert who would have high-tailed it from the situation at the first sight of trouble, like me for example.

Victoria has it all. It is a technical achievement of the highest order as well a wonderful example of storytelling. After the thrilling and heartbreaking third act when you've had a chance to catch your breath, despite everything that has happened, as the camera finally allows Victoria to walk away from you, you'll be said to see her go.

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