360: A Review
360 – Dir: Fernando Meirelles; *ing: Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Ben Foster, Lucia Siposová, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Maria Flor, Jamel Debbouze, Dinara Drukarova
Cinema is a magnificent thing; but it does need a good old swipe up-side the head once in while, especially when it takes a single idea and then proceeds to try and beat it to death with a greed stick. One speaks here not necessarily of financial greed, but the artistic kind, whereby legions of filmmakers pounce on the same basic premise and then try to create individual masterpieces out of it, each a testament to its maker’s genius. Fair enough, were it not for the fact of the law of averages ensuring that a good proportion of the resulting works is actually the movie equivalent of a dog’s dinner.
Take, for instance, the premise at work here in 360: the multiple thread narrative – a movie favourite in recent years in both drama (Crash, Babel) and rom-com (Love Actually, Valentine’s Day). Just when you think that that particular cinematic cow has been milked for all its worth, along come writer Peter Morgan and director Mereilles to try and prove otherwise. That what they manage to prove is the passing of the ‘sell by’ date of the idea, is perhaps not all that surprising. What is surprising is that the man responsible for writing The Queen and The Last King Of Scotland, and the filmmaker behind such strong, modern classics as The City Of God and The Constant Gardener, have together created a film so mild and uninvolving.
In this sort of narrative, it isn’t usually the story which is of so much interest to a viewer as is the plotting. In 360, the overarching story is about infidelities which go deeper than just the romantic kind, and as set-ups go, it is promising enough if not terribly new. The plot meanders between loosely connected characters and places, starting off with a Slovakian call-girl (Siposová) working in Vienna, who is stood up by her first ever client (Law) whose own wife (Weisz) back in London is trying to break off an affair. In between, there is a sex-offender (Foster) just released from prison, caught in a dangerous flirtation with a girl (Flor) at an airport, where a tormented father (Hopkins) in search of his long-missing daughter, is also in transit. Add to the mix a French-Algerian dentist (Debbouze) in love with his married assistant (Drukarova) whose neglectful husband (Vdovichenkov) is a chauffeur/bodyguard for a Russian mobster whose dealings bring him to… Vienna.
The inspiration behind the film is Arthur Schnitzler’s early-twentieth century play La Ronde, but in adapting the source’s thematic structure for the multiplex generation, Morgan and Mereilles have sacrificed much of its intricacies and moralistic ruminations for dull, even stereotypical, generalizations. The tone of the film is too subdued to provide any real emotional traction and most of the characters, similarly, too aloof to inspire investment on our part. Hopkins is the one who gets to recite the film’s Big Monologue, but Foster and Vdovichenkov’s are really the only two characters who stand out, with their respective struggles against sexual compulsion and weakening loyalty. Beyond that, the script’s moments of profundity come off as merely superficial, all the more frustrating because one senses the immense potential for edgy, challenging material simmering underneath the surface, which is, maddeningly, never allowed to bubble forth. As a result, 360 may not be a complete write-off as a piece of cinema, but is too unaffecting, too banal to be remotely memorable.
Cult: The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964) – An early version of the multi-thread narrative, with the titular vehicle serving as the link between three separate plotlines.
Current: Take This Waltz – Actor/director Sarah Polley’s solid follow-up to her Oscar-nominated directorial debut Away From Her, tackles themes of infidelity and melancholia.
Coming Attraction: Hitchcock (2013) – Anthony Hopkins will hopefully find more material to chew on in this biopic about the Master of Suspense.