Fernando Meirelles's 360
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
“360” is a collection of short stories that don’t have very much to do with each other, other than the characters trying to find direction in their lives or simply trying to move on with them. Sometimes a series of short stories intertwined can be an interesting experience as you begin to notice how the stories connect, or even cross over to each other. However, imagine the irony of a film where people are trying to find direction in their lives in stories that end up being directionless, and there you will have a pretty good idea of the experience “360” will give you.
As there isn’t really a singular plot, it’s rather hard to tell what the film is about without giving a brief description of a few of the stories. One tells of a woman, Blanka (Lucia Siposova), trying to make it big as a prostitute. Another tells of a married businessman, Michael (Jude Law), who gets blackmailed after arranging a meeting with Blanka.
However, the story that the film feels like it spends the longest with is about a man, John (Anthony Hopkins), who meets a woman, Laura (Maria Flor), on an airplane while traveling to the states to see if his daughter’s body has been found. The two get to know each other on the flight and, after they find both of their connecting flights delayed, eventually decide to meet for dinner. Before this happens though, Laura meets Tyler (Ben Foster), a convicted sex offender recently released from jail who is on his way to a halfway house. He’s trying to get better, but being with a woman who is practically forcing herself on him truly puts him to the test.
The film starts off well enough, making us think that the stories are going to have a fair amount to do with each other as we meet Blanka, and eventually Michael. It even unveils an interesting blackmail plot that you think will really get the movie going, but alas, as soon as this is introduced, the film jumps to another story. It does occasionally come back to this story during the film, only to show us that not much is happening with it. As for the blackmail plot, nothing much becomes of it, as we see near the end of the film.
These bland conclusions are actually a major problem for all of the stories. Just when you think they’re going somewhere interesting, something easily resolves them to the point where we are forced to ask: Is that it? The story involving John, Laura, and Tyler ends just as abruptly, without much happening to anyone before they all go their separate ways. With several stories going on like this, you become forced to ask yourself another question: What was the point? This seems to have been written without much of one in mind.
The second half gives the feeling that the filmmakers had just given up as it begins to fizzle out quite early. It is here where the film begins to concentrate mainly on the driver/assistant of a Russian mob boss (this is never really made clear, but you can guess that he’s involved in some shady business).
At this point, the film clearly needs to be put on life support as we watch a scene between the driver, Sergei (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), and a woman he has invited into his car after it begins to rain. The two swap Russian phrases and chitchat about Sergei’s boss and the car before finally taking a drive around the city. This is all taking place while his boss is having a meeting with Blanka in a hotel. As you can probably guess, this tale also has a sudden and unsatisfying ending.
It’s rather shocking to learn that this film came from Fernando Meirelles, acclaimed director of “City of God.” Even more shocking is learning that the screenplay was written by Peter Morgan, who has given us the screenplays to such great films as “The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “The Last King of Scotland.” As to why these two thought this material would be worth exploring in the first place remains a mystery.
In order for a film like this to work, it needs to feel like more than a series of choppy tales that were only half thought out. Granted, Morgan has had his misfires (“Hereafter” comes to mind), but I’ve never seen him get to the point where a project of his is this lazily written. Hopefully he’ll bounce back in no time. It just goes to show that, even with so much talent involved behind and in front of the camera, some material just won’t work. 2/4 stars.
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