“In a bad film”, writes The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin, “something goes awry: The script is convoluted or the third act is a mess or Anthony Hopkins is playing a black man for some reason”. Well, substitute “whole damn thing” for “third act” and give Hopkins some credit for leaving his shoe polish at home, but otherwise, in Fernando Meirelles extraordinarily banal 360, you have the very definition of a bad film. A really bad one, in fact.
Filmed in eight separate countries and loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde, 360 is a cosmopolitan, would-be opus about how people connect with each other in this technology-dominated modern age. The huge cast of one-dimensional characters (including Hopkins, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz) chase, betray, and have (largely miserable) sex with each other. And that’s basically it for two hours.
The whole interconnecting stories thing has been done before to much greater effect by the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), Robert Altman (Short Cuts), Michael Haneke (Code Unknown) and on a global scale by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (the overwrought and schematic but far superior Babel); 360 brings nothing new to the table. Peter Morgan’s dialogue clangs with exposition and cliche, and the writer is particularly fond of populating his story with occurrences that would simply never happen in real life.
The inconsistencies and unintentionally funny moments in 360 are simply too legion to itemize, but special mention must be made of the ludicrous storyline concerning a convicted sex offender (Ben Foster) who all but begs his case worker (Secrets & Lies’ Marianne Jean-Baptiste) to keep him locked up because he is palpably still capable of bad deeds. Instead, she positively encourages him to get out there, and before you know it, fate has presented him with a drunk, emotional recent dump-ee for him to test his mettle against. And that’s not all. Before he enters the hotel room with the girl, Meirelles lingers pretentiously on his cross tattoo, and then the door number 316 (in reference to John 3:16, one of the most frequently quoted references from the Bible). Is this guy some kind of latter-day saint? Who cares as long as there’s a portentous religious connection wedged in there. It’s just that kind of film.
Other than the dubious underlying message that says simply “take a chance”, even if this means unleashing a jittery sex offender onto the world, or abandoning your imperilled prostitute sister to jump into a car with the first hunky bloke that claps eyes on you, there is little of substance or meaning on show.
Yes, it’s well shot and competently made, but so are most car adverts. 360 might just have passed muster as a series of one-act ITV dramas, but as cinema, it’s DOA, and a colossal waste of time for all involved.
360 is in cinemas from Friday. A version of this review originally appeared in our coverage of the 55th BFI London Film Festival.