360 (TBA): At The London Film Festival Wednesday 12th October, Thursday 13th October, Saturday 15th October. General Release TBC.
Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener had the honour of opening The London Film Festival in 2005. This year’s 55th festival opens with another of Mereilles’ films but it’s an honour that it doesn’t really deserve as 360 is by and large a forgettable interlocking tale of 10 people scattered across the globe.
As an exploration of love and sex, it does little more than present a series of short skits that are linked together in the most perfunctory way possible but it really says very little. It begins in Vienna, where a prostitute (Lucia Siposová) goes to meet a married man on a business trip (Jude Law). Things don’t go quite according to plan and he chickens out, instead opting to phone his wife (Rachel Weisz) who is having an affair with a Brazilian photographer (Juliano Cazarré), whose heartbroken girlfriend (Maria Flor) storms out and flies back to Brazil.
Various other characters are introduced – Anthony Hopkins is a man travelling the world looking for his dead daughter; Ben Foster is a rapist on his way to a safe house; Jamel Debouzze is a dentist in love with his assistant (Dinara Drukarova) who in turn is dissatisfied with her life married to Russian gangster chauffeur (Vladimir Vdovichenkov). This all leads back to the original prostitute and a self-congratulatory circular ending.
The narrative is necessarily divided among its many cast members but with little screen time each and without any convincing cohesion between the narratives, there’s very little time for any character to develop. Consequently each situation feels shallow – like a glimpsed thumbnail rather than a fully-fledged picture. Without any significant investment in the major players, the fact that all their paths intersect feels hugely contrived, leading to scenes which seem to only occur because it’s important for the narrative – a woman gets into a car with a complete stranger – impulsively romantic or cynically calculated writing?
There are some standout scenes. Anthony Hopkins puts in one of his best performances in years as a troubled father who takes an avuncular interest in a fellow passenger. He delivers a moving monologue with such natural fluidity, it almost feels like the script simply consisted of a few major points and he was asked to improvise.
Ben Foster is also excellent. He plays a rapist on the way to a holding facility whose temptation is tested to the limit by the amorous attentions of a woman he meets at an airport. The scene is nail-bitingly tense but tonally feels like it was pasted in from a different movie – the abrupt shift is quite jarring. The same can be said about the film’s ending, a misjudged thriller ending which makes little sense in context with the rest of the film.
Added to this are some incredibly irritating bookends, a voice-over proclaims “A wise man once said, if you find a fork in the road, take it” – the exact kind of pseudo-philosophical rubbish that stupid people think is clever. In fact, there’s something overbearingly smug about 360 – the film ends with an irritating graphic of the number ‘360’, framed by a ring – as if an audience couldn’t be relied upon to work out that the film comes full circle, the visual equivalent of saying “Did you see what I did there?” The answer being: yes we did and we weren’t impressed.