Release Date: August 10, 2012
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz
As far as independent cinema goes, few releases boast a more distinguished credit list than 360. Directed by the acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and featuring a screenplay by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), it stars a long list of acting heavyweights, including Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz. With this in mind, I was curious as to how 360 managed to make its way into UK cinemas without attracting much media attention. As I was soon to discover, however, the reason is fairly simple: this is an awful film.
A modern take on Arthur Schnitzler’s 19th century play La Ronde, 360 is a globetrotting ensemble drama that seeks to explore human sexuality. Told through a series of interwoven narrative strands, it takes us from Vienna to Phoenix as we encounter characters damaged by their past relationships and sexual experiences; amongst various others, there’s a Czech prostitute involved with violent Russian gangsters, a father searching for his estranged daughter after being caught having an affair, and a convicted sex criminal struggling to adjust to life on the outside. Each sequence links in some way or another to the next until we are eventually returned to the opening situation, thus upholding the somewhat pretentious assertion that “everything comes full circle.”
While there’s much wrong with the film, its unbalanced script can shoulder most of the blame. Morgan may have proven himself an accomplished writer of political dramas based on true events, but he is less adept at pulling off fictional networked narratives (for more evidence, watch Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter). Attempting to switch between so many divergent plotlines, the characters lack any real depth and become hard to empathise with. Just when we might begin to take an interest in one scenario, he quickly jumps to another location and set of characters, leaving the audience unsatisfied and bored. He would have been better to cut some of the film’s shorter strands in order to develop his main sequences more fully.
Meirelles’s clumsy over-direction doesn’t help proceedings either. Lacking the energy of previous hits like City of God and The Constant Gardener, 360 is stuffed with pretentious imagery and self-conscious gimmicks. The editing is particularly jarring, especially during simple dialogue scenes. When John (Anthony Hopkins) delivers a poignant address at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, for instance, the unsteady camera incessantly jumps from one wonky angle to another. Yet rather than adding emotional intensity, it only makes the already uninteresting characters even harder to engage with.
Of course, the film is not without any redeeming features. As ever, Meirelles has drawn some solid performances from his cast and even manages to create moments of genuine tension. Indeed, after a blizzard grounds all flights out of Denver airport, a particularly suspenseful sequence sees stranded Brazilian Laura (Maria Flor) attempt to seduce fellow passenger Tyler (Ben Forster), unaware that he is a recently released sex offender. As well as fearing for her safety, we also find ourselves unexpectedly invested in Tyler’s well being, witnessing just how hard he fights to resist his depraved desires.
In the end, however, such moments of engagement are all too rare and 360 remains deeply encumbered by Morgan’s deficient screenplay and Meirelles’s uninspired direction. As I left the cinema, I found myself unimpressed and confused about what exactly the film trying to say – that sex is the root of all unhappiness, that history is destined to repeat itself, or simply that we are all somehow connected to each other? Whatever it’s hollow intentions, unless you feel the need to repent for some heinous crime, 360 should be avoided at all costs.