If you want to make something more appealing to the consumer just add
sex. Sex it up. Show
some skin, show some flesh. Give
us bouncing breasts, perfectly sculpted buttocks. We want Sharon Stone
crossing her legs, Channing Tatum flexing
his buns, Michael Fassbender ambling
about his apartment in the buff. 360 fails to fully comprehend the logistics of
this concept so, instead of acres of sweat-dappled flesh, the film instead
focuses on the impact of sex and love on a global scale. Imagine 2006’s Babel but instead of communication
breakdowns, the characters’ lives here are intercut, affected, damaged and thrive
through concepts of sex, love and infidelity. But without the good bits to get
the pulse racing.
Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s play Reigen (his Dream Story also inspired
Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), 360 offers
a number of characters in various predicaments, all tangentially connected to
each other. To start with, we have a young Slovakian woman (Lucia Siposova) agreeing to become a prostitute,
who is then hired by Jude Law’s
businessman who fails to show up for their ‘date’. Meanwhile, back in England, Rachel Weisz breaks up with her
Brazilian photographer boyfriend who returns home only to find that his
girlfriend (Maria Flor) was aware of
the affair and has left him to return home to Brazil. On the flight back, she
meets Anthony Hopkins who is travelling
to Phoenix to identify a body that may be his daughter who ran away when she
found out he was having an affair. In the same airport, Ben Foster, a recently released sex offender, finds himself tempted
by the young Brazilian nymph. All the while, a widowed dentist (Jamel Debbouze) wrestles with the
notion that he is in love with a colleague, who is already married, directly
conflicting with his Muslim beliefs. Slowly but surely, these stories unfold and
entwine to bring us full circle (the 360 of the title), back to the beginning
and the Slovakian prostitute now calling herself Blanka.
So far, so Paul Haggis’s Crash. In thrall to the concepts of Chaos Theory, random chance and
the Butterfly Effect in that self-satisfied way that only filmmakers striving
to say something profound ever are, the film examines the consequences of our
decisions, the ripples that affect others. If a butterfly flaps its wings in
London, does it cause a hurricane in Brazil? Fear not though, 360 is not about
the casual spreading of a venereal disease epidemic, although in hindsight the
filmmakers may have missed a trick in ignoring the more serious ramifications
of sexual politics.
Director Fernando Meirelles and writer Peter Morgan both have form in
addressing complex human issues. Meirelles leans on the same social agenda of Blindness and The Constant Gardner to raise the question of who holds the power
when it comes to the key relationships, the notion that often people are held
to ransom by their physical desires. Meanwhile, Morgan is a writer who always
creates complex characters while finding ways to make us empathise with them.
These elements are where 360 is at its strongest.
Unfortunately, it is also
these two artists’ flaws that make 360 less than perfect. Both writer and
director struggle to inject any real emotion into both the film and the
characters. Interesting concepts are raised but rarely connect, engaging the
audience on little more than a superficial level. The message at the centre of the film feels both forced and confused.
More often than not the characters seem to profit from sex and infidelity without
consequence and only rarely does romance play a part in people’s happiness.
Anyone who saw the Morgan-scripted Hereafter
will recognise the same cold ideology making 360 more a frustrating than
Without exception, the cast
are solid. Weisz, Law and Hopkins all bring a level of prowess and credibility
to the film but it is the lesser-known cast members who steal the show. Flor as
the flirtatious Brazilian girl makes the most of a strangely written character
to make her endlessly endearing. Debbouze brings the innocent charms he
displayed so amicably in Amelie to
his character, making him the most appealing protagonist. Meanwhile, Ben Foster
turns what could have been another trademark vagabond role into something
altogether more ambiguous and heartbreaking.
Rife with provocative ideas,
360 is engaging without ever being enthralling, a film that thinks it’s taking
us on a voyage of discovery but falls short of breaking down barriers.
360 is pushing it, more like
a solid 180.