July 30, 2012

360

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



360

DRAMA:

U.K./Austria/France/Brazil, 2011

U.S. Release Date:

2012-08-03

Running Length:

1:50

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Profanity, Nudity, Violence)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Ben Foster, Gabriela Marcinkova, Lucia Siposova

Director:

Fernando Meirelles

Screenplay:

Peter Morgan

Cinematography:

Adriano Goldman

U.S. Distributor:

Magnolia Pictures

Subtitles:

In English, German, French, and Russian with subtitles


360 arrives with a pedigree that will have movie die-hards salivating. Blessed with an acclaimed director (Fernando Meirelles, City of God & The Constant Gardener), a respected screenwriter (Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon), and a high profile international cast (led by Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, and Jude Law), 360 would seem to be as "can't miss" as a film can be... yet, somehow, it does. This isn't a bad production by any application of the definition, but it is disappointing (and a little boring). The chief problem relates to structure. The film unspools more like a puzzle than a cohesive narrative. It's a tactical game for the screenwriter and director: begin with Character A, have Character A meet Character B, follow Character B, have Character B meet Character C, and so on - until we get to Character H, who then meets Character A, and we have come full circle. "360" refers to the movie's structure, which is indicative of where its sensibilities lie. A better title: A Few Famous and Not-So-Famous Actors Bump into Each Other and Don't Do or Say Much of Consequence. Wordy, yes, but accurate.

I could provide a rundown of who represents Character A, B, C, D, etc., but what would be the point? Likewise, providing short descriptions of their situations would be equally unenlightening. Meirelles and Morgan are less interested in their characters than they are in playing with the idea of connections - how, in today's world where people can (and do) travel around the globe with ease, men and women can interact in ways both mundane and unexpected. It's an interesting thought-piece and might make for a fascinating series of short stories, but it results in an uneven and sometimes uninvolving motion picture. An obvious flaw is that we become more invested in some characters than in others and several of the stories have little payoff and less seeming purpose.

The most compelling story focuses on Mirkha (Lucia Siposova), a high-priced call girl, and her prim sister, Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova), who live in Bratislava and travel to Vienna for Mirkha's jobs. Although Anna doesn't participate, she comes along for moral support, but waits outside of the hotels where her sister completes her transactions. Mirkha's first client, a lonely married man away far from home (Jude Law), stands her up. Later, she is paid to spend an hour with a drug dealer. While those two are together in a room, Anna strikes up a conversation with Sergei (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), the dealer's bodyguard and driver, who sees in the pretty young woman an opportunity he had not previously envisioned.

Many of 360's segments involve infidelity - either actual or considered - and what causes some people to stray and others to remain faithful. If an average movie provides us with a picture window through which to observe the lives of others, 360 allows us a glimpse through a portal. It's hard to be satisfied with the brevity of the images. It's always a pleasure to watch actors like Hopkins, Law, and Weisz at work, but it can be frustrating to recognize that not a lot is being demanded of them. Hopkins in particular isn't given much more to do than recite dialogue, but his deep, rich voice and expressive countenance can easily trick the viewer into thinking there's more substance to his slice of the narrative than is apparent.

When a movie is defined more by structure than story, one expects there to be some kind of diabolical truth or great reveal. 360 offers nothing of the kind as it meanders across continents and between characters to provide truncated glimpses into marriages, affairs, business dealings, and playful encounters. For a director like Meirelles, this seems decidedly unchallenging and unambitious - a chance to visit different cities and countries (Paris, Vienna, Slovakia, London, the United States) and employ a variety of actors. Although it can be argued that most of the film's various vignettes offer closure of one sort or another, they never really get started before they end and we are forced to move one. When a chapter is dull - and there are several of those sprinkled throughout - it brings the proceedings to a grinding halt. 360's beginning and ending are solid; it's the saggy middle that makes the movie seem long-winded and directionless.

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