In case you missed the bulletin, the globe has shrunk to a village, and its denizens are the connected components in a world wide web. Or in a badly contrived script. That’s the trouble with 360. Moving from Vienna to Paris to London to Denver and back again, the ragged circle it completes is as transparent as the leaden point it makes. Yep, we are intertwined. That leaves only the choice of thread – in this case, with a clear nod to La Ronde, it’s the old yarn of love and sex. Our degrees of separation may have dramatically diminished, but not the complications wrought by our swollen libidos and riven hearts. Some things, apparently, don’t change.
But one thing is remarkable here: the amount of high-powered talent assembled to document the obvious. Like director Fernando Meirelles who, having gone local in City of God, global in The Constant Gardener, and allegorical in Blindness, seems intent on combining all three into a cinematic trifecta. Or like screenwriter Peter Morgan who, in the wake of Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and The Damned United, has unwisely departed from factual characters to the made-up variety. Or like the formidable team of actors, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz and Anthony Hopkins among them, who all take their brief turn passing the narrative baton – sprinters in the story’s relay race.
As mentioned, that relay begins in Vienna, where sex is a possible commercial transaction between Mirka the Slovakian prostitute and Michael the British businessman (Law). Being a wedded fellow, the Brit consults his conscience and turns down the adulterous encounter, a prudence not shown back in London by his sultry wife (Weisz), who’s conducting a hot affair with a young Brazilian photographer. Over in Paris, another crisis of conscience arises: An Algerian dentist has developed an obsessive crush on his unhappily married hygienist. Religious, he consults an Imam, who counsels abstinence; practical too, he seeks a second opinion from a therapist, who is less discouraging. Confusion ensues – but just a little.
The amorous thread wends its way to Colorado, where Laura the photog’s jilted girlfriend chats in the airport with a bereaved father (Hopkins), then ill-advisedly sets up a one-night stand with Tyler the just-released sex offender. Suspense ensues – but only a tad. Meanwhile, back in the City of Light, the hygienist’s hubby Sergei drives off to Vienna to rendezvous with his mobster boss, who’s in the market for sex with our old friend Mirka. Violence ensues – but not so we care.
I’ve spared you many other loops in the serpentine plot, although rest assured that each touches on the theme of passion in its various guises, and each reminds us that one person’s spontaneous choices, good or bad, reverberate in the lives of others (in case you missed that bulletin too). Of course, in all such portmanteau films, the baggage of coincidence gets awfully heavy, stuffed with all those carefully connected dots. It’s always tough on the screen, or the page, to credibly portray the twists of fate and the whims of chance. Serendipity in fiction almost invariably plays like over-calculated artifice – in other words, it is what it isn’t.
To their credit, both Meirelles and his cast infuse as much realism into the artifice as they can muster, but it’s not nearly enough. The too-neat script boxes them in, and leave us out. In that sense, 360 doesn’t so much connect our shrunken world as strangle the life from it – the circle feels like a noose.