360 (Fernando Meirelles, 2011)
360 is predicated on the idea that everyone is connected in the circle of modern life, but the shape it calls to mind is the triangle in a pyramid scheme. Above the title on the poster are a lauded director, screenwriter, and international cast to serve as the lure. What appears to be a worthy investment of time and money yields nothing but the realization of being hoodwinked.
The drama opens in Vienna with a Slovakian woman getting her profile photographs taken for a website offering high-end prostitutes. Mirka (Lucia Siposová) is looking to earn a lot of money in a short period of time and has decided that this is the best way to do so. Although her bookworm sister Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova) disapproves, she still accompanies Mirka on the bus rides from Bratislava to the Austrian capital when work beckons. Mirka’s first client is supposed to be London businessman Michael Daly (Jude Law), but before he can approach her, a fellow salesman (Moritz Bleibtreu) points out the woman of ill repute in the hotel bar.
In Paris a 36-year-old Algerian widower (Jamel Debbouze) stalks a woman in a red beret. He’s smitten with her but doesn’t dare share his feelings because she is a married co-worker. While he knows how he must act, the lovestruck man speaks to a psychologist and his imam about the dilemma.
In London Michael’s wife Rose (Rachel Weisz) breaks off an affair with Brazilian photographer Rui (Juliano Cazarré), who then learns his girlfriend Laura (Maria Flor) was wise to him cheating on her. Laura chooses to return to their native country. On a leg of her trip going to Denver she befriends an older man (Anthony Hopkins). With nasty weather delaying all outbound flights, they intend to meet up for dinner. Also at the airport is Tyler (Ben Foster), a newly released sex offender bound for a halfway house in Louisville.
Hopkins’ character travels on to Phoenix and ends up at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There Valentina (Dinara Drukarova), who has come from Paris to visit her sister, shares her story and begins the film’s path back to the city where the whole thing started.
Most of the vignettes in 360 might have made compelling features on their own if expanded. Except for the lousy, weirdly resolved sections with Law and Weisz, the scenes don’t flounder in miniature but feel incomplete. It’s as though notable plot-divulging portions have been plucked from other films and linked by director Fernando Meirelles and screenwriter Peter Morgan making like the insistent drive-thru order taker in DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? And then? And then? And then?
Even when 360 happens upon some strong moments, like Hopkins and Flor’s sweet interactions as strangers and the pay-off for him, they are mucked up by another thread spliced into the proceedings. Interrupting their time together for the struggles of Foster’s ex-convict suggests the possibility that he could be responsible for Hopkins’ lingering pain. Luckily 360 doesn’t fall victim to the all-caps irony that such a development like that would be. Unfortunately it converges Foster and Flor’s storylines in a most thoroughly unconvincing fashion.
As much as these tales of injured souls are bungled, 360 holds some interest because it posits that the road less traveled doesn’t necessarily lead to better destinations. Falling for someone new and taking a particular risk could be big mistakes. 360 doesn’t possess the conviction to follow through all the way on such an anti-romantic notion. At best Meirelles and Morgan soft sell it, but the flirtation with the idea is contrary to the norm.
According to 360 the world is united in broken dreams and wounded hearts. It’s too bad that playing R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” on a two-hour loop could have expressed the sentiment more effectively.