When the word came through that City of God (2002) director Fernando Meirelles was teaming up with Frost/Nixon (2008) screenwriter Peter Morgan for 360 (2011), a multi-layered, globe-trotting mediation on the consequences of desire, many film aficionados were salivating with anticipation. Unfortunately, all that drool was a waste of good moisture and since opening the 2011 BFI London Film Festival, 360 has been critically savaged and consigned to the drawer of forgettable noble failures.
Cut from the same cloth as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006), Meirelles presents a bunch of unconnected plot strands that eventually and inevitably connect. Jude Law is a businessman contemplating infidelity, Anthony Hopkins is a reformed alcoholic whose daughter ran away after discovering her father had been having an affair and Ben Foster is a recently released paedophile struggling to reform. You get the idea – sex, love and fidelity effect our lives and the lives of those around us and desire is a double-edged sword…
These are all grand themes, worthy of cinematic exploration, but with 360 Meirelles and Morgan’s ambition far exceeds their skill. The interwoven narratives are sterile and uninteresting, the dialogue is pedestrian and a huge chunk of the fatty script could have been trimmed without it having any effect on the overall narrative.
High crimes indeed but by far the worst offence is that everything hinges on the film being believable and naturalistic – and it’s the exact opposite. Meirelles wants you to identify with these characters and accept them as real people, but you’re always aware that you are watching a movie. Although the poor script is partly to blame, it’s the faded backgrounds, muted colours and random editing trickery that that let the side down. In terms of performances Hopkins is the stand-out, but as a reformed alcoholic himself it’s hardly a stretch. What’s more, a long-winded monologue at an AA meeting sounds like one of his own adapted stories rather than Morgan’s script.
Overall then, Meirelles’ 360 is a bit of a turkey. It might aspire for depth and meaning, but the Brazilian director’s latest is a shallow and sketchy affair, all the more disappointing because everyone involved has the talent to do better – with perhaps the exception of Law.