With all due respect to Fernando Meirelles, the director behind the terrific 2002 gangster flick, City of God, the Brazilian film maker’s new film is so bad that it almost feels like a sin to take the time to write about it. Burdened with a dawdling pace and a contrived storyline (and the moral vacuum said storyline creates), 360 falls short on pretty much every level.
Working with a screenplay by Peter Morgan, who penned such gems as The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon, Meirelles spins a story full of interconnected plots and characters, similar to the likes of Crash and Babel. (360 itself is loosely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 sexual circle play, La Ronde.) Focusing on a handful of characters (including those played by Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz) in a handful of cities (Paris and London, among them), Meirelles begins and ends with some prominent words about decisions and consequences. Unfortunately, these words are not mirrored by the actions and events in the film—Meirelles actually neglects them to make sure all ends meet and all characters and plots connect. This failure leaves the film bereft of any sort of moral heft and, instead, sows moral confusion. Is Meirelles condemning or celebrating the wide range of behaviors—marriage, infidelity, pornography, religion, etc.—he presents?
In part due to this lack of clarity, 360 feels utterly contrived—and sometimes downright absurd. In trying to weave together multiple threads, Meirelles and Morgan bring characters together in the most unconvincing of ways. At one point, the story randomly sends a Frenchwoman (Dinara Drukarova) to an AA meeting in Phoenix (though her addiction is conveniently never mentioned before or after this short and arbitrary scene), where she drops in while visiting her sister who “married an American,” just to join two plotlines. Even worse, in order to link the actions of a former sex offender (Ben Foster) and a young, heartbroken Londoner (Gabriela Marcinkova), the beautiful brunette goes out of character and invites the wormy criminal into her hotel room for wine because, well, they both got stuck in the airport due to weather (of course, right?). These manufactured moments—a whole slew of breakups and hookups between characters—stand front and center in 360, and in doing so undercut all other facets, including the efforts of a talented cast who, no matter how hard they try, can’t transcend the wangled roles they play.
As a result, not only has Meirelles created a preposterous film; he also has created a lackluster one, void of both tension and motion. Despite going everywhere, 360 goes nowhere. By the finale, which literally comes full circle, it feels as if the whole thing never got started. The story plays a factor here, but the real problem lies in the pacing: Meirelles simply fails to find a way to move his story along—not through edits, not through the score, nor through any other tools of the trade.
Essentially, in 1999’s Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson achieved all that Meirelles doesn’t. In that film, the interconnected plots and characters come together convincingly, and in the process, Anderson doesn’t compromise the metaphysical themes that drive his story. In 360, neither aspect works, yielding a result that proves bankrupt, both morally and logically.
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Peter Morgan (screenplay)
Starring: Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, Lucia Siposova, Dinara Drukarova, Jamel Debbouze
Release Date: Aug. 3, 2012