Run Time: 115 minutes
360 begins with a paradox: “if there’s a fork in the road, take it.” But to where, when all the paths are unjustifiably similar? This ambiguity wafts over 360, as it tries to find a way across its characters. Cultures and human identities clash in a shrinking world. Fates and lives overlap inevitably. Perhaps unknowingly, we are in a constant dynamic of coming together.
360 is directed by Fernando Meirelles. I don’t envision it finding a place on his throne of acclaim because it moves with such deliberate uncertainty. It’s a movie that never peaks, climaxes, but keeps on moving in a perpetual, inevitable circle. It coldly, literally taps into the dynamics in life.
360 follows a traditional forking-path narrative (“if there’s a fork in the road…”), a device that will immediately allude comparison to Paul Haggis’s Crash and Alejandro Inárritu’s Babel. But don’t get bogged down in such comparisons, because 360 takes a different course. The characters here are not meant to change, transform, or experience a defining moment. They simply encounter each other; some interact, others pass by. Life, in a way, is a series of unannounced interactions and the people we walk by all have a story. I’m reminded of that line in The Great Gatsby: “personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.”
I admire Meirelles’s vision, one destined for our respect more than our love. This isn’t a film featuring character development or guaranteed catharsis. But Meirelles still makes an argument for his world, but with silent modesty.
The plot is a series of wavering vignettes, featuring some tight bonds and others frayed. Big names like Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, and Ben Foster disseminate across 360, located in cities such as Vienna, Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio de Janeiro, Denver, and Phoenix… and back again.
All the performances, even by the venerable Hopkins, are small and minor, because their characters are drawn to levels that define real people – not heroes or villains or anything of the sort. Why spare the development? Because people are not spectrums; they can, but do not necessarily, change in the blink of an eye. Some it takes a lifetime. Others die before they witness their transformation.
There is a bit of suspense within the characters in that we don’t know the characters on the surface, so Meirelles wants us to look through them. Take Ben Foster’s powerful performance as a recovering sex offender, as he battles temptation and, by the end of our journey with him, it is inconclusive to whether he is a better man or has receded to his inner demons.
360 is not an optimistic or cynical film. It believes people can find good fortune, but regardless the world will persist with crime and malice. No one is inherently good or bad; it’s their actions that dictate their and the film’s consequences. 360 was shot by Adriano Goldman (Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre) who paints the scenery with washed-out colors. Everything is so familiar and consumed. There is no space for beauty. Time does laps. Characters arrive and then depart.
The script was written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and you become thankful when you get scenes written like this: Hopkins delivers a long, eloquent speech at an AA meeting. We anticipate his words to close the scene and define the exposition of 360, like Hopkins did in Amistad. But no: another woman stands up and tells a story about her problems with alcohol, deflecting the emphasis on the British acting veteran to a modest presence. I suppose I have a soft spot for films that aren’t about celebrating the image of its actors, but the pace and structure of its world. 360 is one of those films.
This review was written as a part of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.