A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective.
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Screenwriter Peter Morgan and director Fernando Meirelles' 360 combines a modern and dynamic roundelay of stories into one, linking characters from different cities and countries in a vivid, suspenseful and deeply moving tale of love in the 21st century. Starting in Vienna, the film beautifully weaves through Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio, Denver and Phoenix into a single, mesmerizing narrative. Written by
360 Films Ltd
360, the new film from director Fernando Meirelles and screenwriter Peter Morgan, follows in the tradition of the many globe-trotting ensemble cast films we've seen emerge steadily throughout the past decade-plus. It weaves together a large group of characters, crossing their paths through work and sexual interactions, but it does it in a more low-key way than a lot of its predecessors have done. There aren't any big dramatic moments to make these characters connected forever, but rather it's played out in a soft, more authentic fashion. There's definitely some exaggeration for the sake of being played out in film, as several of the characters engage in extra-marital affairs or a life of crime, but I felt that they way they crossed paths was often more organic that you usually see. A lot of these intersecting lives dramas play big on those reveals of "That's the guy from the other person's story!" but 360 never burdens itself with those kind of movie moments.
Unlike those films, this one plays out more in a series of vignettes, focusing on each character for a certain amount of time and then moving on to the next one. It doesn't try to jump back and forth throughout the film, spending a minute or two with one character then the same time with another, then back to the first one for the same time. Rather, each section plays out for their duration and then we connect them to the next one, which plays out to its completion. I felt that this presented a more fluid look into the lives of the characters, as we got to see them fully developed without having to abruptly jump to someone else, as so often happens.
Like a lot of these kind of films, particularly ones that work with this more separated structure, there are some plots that work better than others and some that aren't so good. There's a love story between a dentist, played by Jamel Debbouze, and his employee that doesn't seem to fit in well with the rest of the film. However, there is also what was by far my favorite plot in the film, concerning three characters who are trapped together at an airport overnight when it's shut down due to poor whether. Anthony Hopkins is a man looking for his missing daughter, who runs into Maria Flor's Laura on the plane, a woman who is heading home after finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her. They meet and become friendly, yet when she comes across Ben Foster's Tyler in the airport diner she decides to spend her time with him instead, seizing the moment the way that she never has in her life before. What Laura doesn't know is that Tyler is a convicted child molester who was just recently released from prison, struggling with his transition back into the real world.
360 connects most of its characters through sexual interactions, whether it's illegal prostitution or adulterous affairs, but what is interesting is how the characters respond to any of the given situations. It's a film that deals in this world of sin, and the characters react in many different ways. Some fully embrace living in that world, some tease with the notion of it but ultimately back off, some are deep within it and trying to escape and others unknowingly slide themselves into the thick of it all. Each character has a unique experience with the sin, and it's Tyler who I felt the most emotionally invested in. Many of the characters are just beginning their journey into the darkness, but Tyler is trying his hardest to crawl out of it.
Foster portrays him as a man who is uncomfortable in his own skin, who knows that his deep urges are wrong and is desperately trying to quell them from emerging once again. He's trying to get clean and when he gets stuck in that airport with all of those people, or tempted by the beautiful young Laura, it results in tragic implications for his own fragile psyche. Ben Foster is, for my money, the most gifted actor of his generation and I think this is a performance that not only shows his talent as an actor, but also shows his great range. He doesn't play the explosive menace audiences are used to seeing him as, but rather as a different kind of monster; one fighting everything within himself not to be that. It's a performance where those explosions are just underneath the surface, fighting to get out but he'll do anything in his power to stop them, and Foster nails it with a maturity and resilience that I found incredibly effective.
360 certainly dances with the conventions of this subgenre (one that I admittedly am not a fan of) but I think it does enough differently to somewhat set itself apart. It avoids the melodrama, which is noteworthy given how easy it would have been to cave into that, and instead presents a more soft and observant approach to these characters. There aren't a lot of big emotional scenes or dramatic payoffs, but rather an exploration into a moment in their lives that could be significant to them but could also just be one part of their overall journey. It's a slice-of-life drama that doesn't give us the full picture, but instead shows us parts of these characters; which could ultimately be a negative or positive thing, depending on how you see it.
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