Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles first came to the attention of the wider cinemagoing public with 2002’s City of God, a wildly successful tale of gangsters in the slums of Rio. His follow-up adaptation of John le Carré’s The Constant Gardener (2005) was similarly well received but 2008’s Blindness was considered somewhat disappointing. Many a cinephile had pinned their hopes on his new film recapturing the magic. Meirelles’ 360 (2011) is a panoptic view of the consequences of desire featuring several unrelated characters whose lives, inevitably, end up intertwining. Recapture the magic, however, it sadly does not.
Opening with a young Slovakian woman, Mirka (Lucia Sipsová) becoming a prostitute for a sleazy Austrian pimp, the film chronicles a cycle of vaguely interrelated moments. Pre-emptively, a voiceover reveals that each one will present a fork in the path giving the relevant character the chance to choose which direction to travel. Michael (Jude Law) must decide if he should sleep with Mirka; his wife, Rose (Rachel Weisz) will choose whether or not to end her affair with Brazilian photographer Rui (Juliano Cazzare). Rui must live without his own girlfriend, Laura (Maria Flor) after his affair is uncovered. And so on.
There’s a wealth of acting talent making up 360’s cast: Anthony Hopkins as a struggling father unable to let go of his long-presumed-dead daughter; Ben Foster plays a reformed sex offender battling against his desires; Jamel Debbouze is a Muslim dentist in love with his married assistant. With Peter Morgan responsible for the screenplay, it should not have been too much to ask for at least one or two of these characters to be likeable, relatable, or at least believable. Instead we’re confronted with empty vessels and several situations that defy logic by such a wide margin as to not know what it is.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There are some nice, if a little intrusive, visuals and a couple of scenes that work well in their respective ways. The beautiful, young Laura inexplicably tires to force herself on Tyler (Foster) who she has just met. The scene shows utter disregard for rational character motivation, but the tension and sense of threat as Tyler attempts to resist his urges is palpable. There is also a nicely delivered speech by John (Hopkins) at an AA meeting.
Alas, if only all of the instants strung together to make 360 were anything like as interesting. Instead, the rolling of the credits will leave most people scratching their heads and wondering why. If anything can be taken from the film, it is that betrayal is everywhere; as are pimps inducing beautiful European women into their trade.