Fernando Meirelles’ 360 has great ambition in terms of its desire to tell a story of the ways that different kinds of love affect its characters’ actions. It has a number of strong performances, but something about it – perhaps the choice of subject matter of some of the vignettes, perhaps the methods in which Peter Morgan’s script – sometimes strains to connect its characters, making it truly difficult to embrace.
Set mostly in Europe and the United States, 360 follows a number of very different characters as they weave in and out of one another’s lives. Beginning in Eastern Europe, where a woman is beginning her career as a prostitute by having photographs taken to advertise herself online, the story weaves its way first to Vienna, where she’s about to embark on her first appointment. Then it’s home to London, then moving to the United States before returning to London and back again to Vienna and Bratislava, and to the movie’s starting point. Along the way, the audience gets a look into a number of complicated relationships, whether it’s the troubled marriage between Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins getting to know a new friend on a plane and ending with a strangely touching relationship between a mafia hood’s driver and the sister of a prostitute the audience meets earlier in the film. While we’re provided with a whirlwind tour around the world with the characters, the film also takes its time with each vignette to provide insight into the character’s desires and the conflicts that motivate them.
While a number of the performances are relatively brief, the very talented cast performs superbly. Law and Weisz are perform well as a married couple who have obviously been drifting apart for sometime, but who are trying to keep things together for the sake of their young daughter. Law plays somewhat against type, as his character is much more timid then we’re used to seeing from Law. Weisz remains fierce as ever, as she fights to try and save her marriage. Anthony Hopkins, as a father traveling to America trying to find out if something terrible has happened to his estranged daughter, is vulnerable as a man who’s spent a large portion of his life chasing people away, but is now trying to find his way back into the hearts of his family. Ben Foster is also quite affecting as a just-released sex offender trying his best to avoid relapsing on his way to a half-way house, and who then must fight against all temptation when he’s suddenly alone with a beautiful woman. There are also a number of good turns from some names not quite as well-known, including a number of very good European actors not typically seen here. The issues facing each relationship are also depicted realistically and are unique to one another.
This type of storytelling – episodic, with characters interweaving between stories – seems a much better fit for a comedy than the type of drama Meirelles is trying to create. There is an obvious desire to make the movie seem important, to take on big issues, but the structure largely prevents that. Just as the audience thinks it’s going to be seeing a hard-hitting piece on sex trafficking, or the inequality of opportunity between Western and Eastern Europe, for example, it’s suddenly whisked off to another location entirely, with a new set of characters, with a new set of problems, and the plotline is essentially abandoned. There’s just too much going on in 105 minutes to keep the audience focused from one scene to the next. There’s probably good story material in 360 for five or six different, full-length films, where the individual characters could be explored in much greater depth. Each vignette feels almost like a not-quite-filling meal, where you’re hungering for just a little bit more. There’s also an issue with the way the vignettes flow from one another. In many ways, Morgan’s script feels like it’s stretching to find ways to connect the stories, and at those points, it’s often credulity that’s strained most of all.
There are a number of fine and worthy performances and good scenes in 360. As an acting showcase for both familiar and new talents, the audience may find something to latch onto. There are a number of scenes or plotlines that might be effective standing on their own as films, but as a whole, if audiences are seeking a profound statement about the nature of love or the way people are connected, they may want to look elsewhere.