Thursday, 16 August 2012


2011. Dir: Fernando Meirelles. Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Maria Flor and Ben Foster. ●●○○○

Do you remember when Peter Morgan used to write structurally tradition biographical screenplays that read like simplistic portrayals of The Queen or Brian Clough but revealed inner depths that challenged the viewers perception of the central characters and ultimately displaying hidden their humanity. That time is gone, Morgan has clearly seen the success of multiple character dramas like Amores Perros and Crash and wishes to emulate them whilst ensuring we understand the deeper meaning. Last year his heartfelt humanist parable of death, Hereafter, showed how the emotional thematic elements eventually over-shadowed the interest we developed in the characters and the final act shoved all the storylines together to forcibly underline their individual arcs and yet rang false. In 360 he returns to the hyperlink drama charting the sexual and emotional connections of a diverse group of strangers across globe, and unsurprisingly the point feels just as tacked on and a good half of the plotlines feel so insignificant they could be cut out completely.

The film starts (and, without really spoilering, ends) with a young lady shooting a topless advert for a hooker internet profile, it's a nod to Arthur Schnitzler's turn of the century scandalous play La Ronde, bookmarked by a Viennese hooker, on which the concept of 360 is based. But where Schnitzler intended to shock his audience into the realisation that sex was both natural and dangerous (the play essentially follows a strain of Syphilis as it journeys between class and national borders before returning to the whore who kicked it off) Morgan wants to comfort us, there's a streak of misplaced romanticism that forces characters to get into cars with each other or to not have the affair they were planning. The theme of connection, the 360° we go through, is merely the means by which we make many story, rather than the end in itself.

So sexy Slovakian Lucia Siposová is about to offer herself to cuckolded husband Jude Law. He wimps out and goes back to his wife, Rachel Weisz, not so subtly having an affair with Juliano Cazarré (frankly who wouldn't). But before you can say plot device Rachel is back with Jude watching their daughter forget her lines in the school play and Juliano's live in girlfriend, Maria Flor, has also run off having caught the whole thing on tape. She gets on a plane with chatterbox Anthony Hopkins and they both get caught in a snowed in Denver with paroled sex offender Ben Foster. Hopkins then runs into Dinara Drukarova at an AA meeting before she goes back to Paris to tell her husband Vladimir Vdovichenkov it's over before expressing her love for her dentist boss Jamel Debbouze. Vladimir, feeling vaguely rejected but clearly not that put off, drives to Vienna with his obnoxious boss Mark Ivanir before a meet cute with Gabriela Marcinkova, the sister of Luica Siposová.

That's the plot in a nutshell and apart from the relentless coincidences that take us round full circle, the only real spoiler in there is the always watchable Jamel Debbouze playing a conflicted dentist, the sort of career choice that often gets marginalised on screen but here really informs their romantic stirrings.

The film started badly, with neither Law nor Weisz making interesting enough character choices to make me care if their marriage floundered or not. If it wasn't for Cazarre cavorting around in nothing but a towel, tattoo's and Clark Kent glasses I'd have walked out.

Luckily the second act, focussed around Flor, Hopkins and Foster kicks in. The three of them are all at the top of their game, Maria slipping between sisterly affection and drunken flirting and Ben tightly wound and electrifying with potentially every extra in the airport a victim if he can't control his urges. Meanwhile Hopkins gives a superb performance that reminds us of how potent a film star he can be - his speech at the AA meeting, drawing as much from his own experience as from the script is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking. In those three characters, all of whom must turn over a chapter in their lives, director Fernando Meirelles finds a chord, allowing the comedy to flow organically, the tension to build (there's one scene I nearly had to cover my eyes for) and the pay-offs for the characters were rewarding for them and for the audience in a way the rest of the film failed to deliver. Yes, from there it quickly descended into Russian gangster and tart with a heart clichés.

Elsewhere Meirelles doesn't seem to have the confidence in the material, the occasional camera flourishes and cutting techniques only hammer home the themes rather than hint at them, like Clint Eastwood before him, he seems unable to make a solid enough film from the good script sections to allow to forgive the weaker parts, and the variable script is what really lets 360 down.

Overall I can't recommend the film, but if anyone every offers you the chance to watch a 30 minutes short about Maria Flor, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Foster stuck in an airport I urge you to watch that masterclass in screen acting.

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