360 is a tough film to find, and it will probably remain tough as its best viewed in dingy art houses and amongst “intellectuals” at Avante Garde film festivals. Despite respected director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) being at the helm of an incredible cast, 360 fails to reach it’s potential as the entire film is spent circling a story that never quite happens.
The film is a loose adaptation of the German play La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, and it’s very clear from the opening scenes that 360 is built more for the stage than for the screen. Each story has it’s own list of infinite possibilities, but few of them ever culminate in a full story arc. The plot is hard to describe, as there really isn’t one. Rather, the film is a series of intersecting sub-plots. Unlike more successful films like Crash and Four Rooms, 360 fails to create compelling characters that we are interested in. Essentially, the film is about a young Slavic woman Mirka (Lucia Siposova) breaking into the Internet prostitution business. From that “storyline” several smaller storylines with various characters (Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, Anthony Hopkins) branch off and the film follows all of them in no significant order. There is no inciting incident, lock in, mid-point, or twist. The “main culmination” is more of a deus ex machina sort of solution involving a character we’ve only just met, Sergei (Vladimir Vdovichenkov).
Perhaps the most compelling story in the entire film is that of recently released sexual predator Tyler (Ben Foster). Tyler’s trip to Kentucky to enter a half way house for reform intersects with relationship-escaping Laura (Maria Flor) on her way back to Brazil. Laura flirts with and seduces the sexual predator, without knowing his past. Watching Tyler struggle with his demons while being seduced by Laura is an emotionally charged story cut short by yet another off-shoot sub-plot. I felt that I could watch Tyler’s story for an entire film, but instead was only given a few minutes of time with his engrossingly and strangely empathetic character.
Fans of the play La Ronde will probably jump for joy at the modern interpretation, and I’m sure many a film buff will praise its “unusual bending of the rules” (massive eye-roll here, people—massive). But for someone interested in seeing a “movie” or even, dare I say, “a film,” 360 is not for you. While it does have its moments (Anthony Hopkins’ edge of your seat emotionally realistic AA monologue and Ben Foster’s entire performance) the film is not a satisfying story, and more or less a collection of short films without enough conflict or resolution. 360 succeeds in coming full circle: It begins with a collection of characters I didn’t yet care about, and ended with a collection I didn’t yet care about.