(This review originally appeared at Reel Film News on August 10, 2012.)
Sometimes, a film’s genre definition tends to get turned completely on its head. Fernando Meirelles’ 360, for example, is a Crash-like film where the characters’ lives all intersect at one point or another, often through disparate circumstances. Right off the bat, describing it as a “Crash-like film” gives you the sense that it’s a drama (which it is, and that’s not to be ignored); what people often miss about films like this is that there’s a little bit of suspense built in. Not a terrifying suspense in the Hitchcockian sense of the word, but more of a small, yet lingering “what’s going to happen next?” thrill.
360 is not a thriller – let’s get that out of the way immediately. It’s more of a contemporary cross between the aforementioned Crash, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Closer (oddly enough, also starring Jude Law). Why those films? Because of the techniques used to tell the story (split-screens and gangsters, found in Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock… and Snatch), the seemingly random (yet meaningful) interactions between the characters (Crash), and a lot of infidelity (Closer). It seems that a majority of the characters’ paths are either driven by and/or crossing through some type of sexual indiscretion or unfaithful emotional attachment, with most of the main characters either committing the act or being a victim of the act. Some are seen during the movie’s duration; some are merely recounted as stories. Some don’t even kiss, yet there’s a strong “elephant in the punchbowl” skewing things and making us fervently hope that things either happen or don’t happen between them. Trying to continue with a detailed summary of this film would be, in essence, spoiling it; a lot of the enjoyment of this film is in discovering the connections between the players in this film’s microcosm. Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Blindness) has constructed a very thoughtful film with a relatively small cast – some recognizable, some newcomers to Western audiences – and uses them to show how desperate we all can be for a slice of attention, whether it’s from the one we’re with or from an outside source.
360 is a gorgeously-shot and performed film with much to immerse oneself and get lost; be warned, though – it’s not a neat, tidy movie by any standard. Meirelles seems to have divided it into two halves in order to try to keep confusion to a minimum as multiple storylines get juggled around. There are some plots that get dropped by the wayside in favor of the thicker, more salacious stories, and not everything is going to come gift-wrapped with a proper ending. However, we’re given lots to chew on about the nature of cause and effect, with subtle and very human performances making it easier to believe each character’s predicament. Whether it’s a case of love lost, love gained, or even a mismatched love, 360 doesn’t lose sight of its goal: to show us how each of us on this small planet affects the other. Someone in the film relates a small adage: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” However, it’s not said which direction one is supposed to take; 360 is about taking those directions – any direction – never minding what the result may be.