A woman’s naked breasts are on full display in 360’s final shot, which wraps up a bookending scenario about an Internet-based pimp who preys on prospective call girls. Were this interweaving drama anything more than perfectly boring, such an edgy parting image might have read as subversively artful. As is, it’s vulgar and telling. Directed by Fernando Meirelles from a dusty script by Peter Morgan, 360 is all superficial stimulation, hollow and stiff as it beats the dead horse of we’re-all-connected narratives. From technique to platitudinous morals, the overall operation feels both phoned-in and forced, its “universal” tendrils uniformly lacking in substance. This might be one of the year’s most unnecessary movies, which is a tad crushing considering all the baity talent that’s tied to the spit. In addition to Meirelles and Morgan (whose washed-out worldview and pinky-out style, respectively, prove ill-matched), the film boasts Anthony Hopkins as the grieving father of a missing girl, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz as an adulterous married couple, Ben Foster as a sex offender fresh out of the pen, and a who’s-who of international stars as various malcontents. But everyone’s efforts are essentially for naught, as this modern transmutation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde is a redundant slog, serving linked-up banalities as it trots the globe with lead feet.
The movie begins (and ends) in Vienna, where Slovakian beauty Mirkha (Lucia Siposová) aspires to sell her body and soul to fund the life she shares with her sister. Mirkha’s first John is Michael Daly (Law), an English businessman who’s cheating on wife Rose (Weisz), who’s sleeping with a young photographer (Juliano Cazarre), who’s breaking the heart of girlfriend Laura (Maria Flor), who’s hopping a plane to the same destination as Tyler (Foster), who may or may not drink coffee in the same airport establishment as John (Hopkins). Short of some honest passages from a dependably soulful Sir Anthony (his character tenderly shares his struggle with loss in an AA meeting, site of the least contrived meet cute), it’s all as eye-rollingly typical as it sounds, with revelations bereft of surprise and characters equally plagued by intimacy issues and the need for interaction. In his worst formal exercise to date, Meirelles employs a throng of tricks to underscore relationships, proximities, and the stitching of plot threads, using triptychs and split-screens and screens within screens to exhaustive effect. 360’s metaphorical construction is continually imposed on the audience, its camera-phone views and digitally slivered imagery paired with a wealth of in-scene partitions, which Meirelles tirelessly scans from an ant-farm POV. More sophomoric than effective, the aesthetic doesn’t so much enhance the material as reiterate its blandness.
The thrust of 360 is the wicked curse of desire, and the hardship that can come from desperately wanting just about anything. Hopkins’s AA scene is the film’s best because it encapsulates the necessity to learn to live without, and it’s no accident that therein his character realizes that chasing closure can be as toxic and all-consuming as chasing a drink. All of the people in this film find suffering in their wants, be them the yearning of a Muslim man (Jamel Debbouze) for his non-Muslim employee (Dinara Drukarova), the sweet need of a gangster’s driver (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to escape the game, or the cougar-ish urges of Rose to seek out virile twentysomethings. Thrilling triumphs and consequences could have surely resulted from these setups, but instead, all that’s given is a collective fizzling out, with those infernal cell effects lazily showing the tied-off offshoots of the story that started it all. “We’ve come full circle,” one character actually dares to say, the line indicative of what amounts to Morgan’s poorest script. Since desire is the theme on the table, let’s just say that what’s finally wanted is a much better film.