Directed by Fernando Meirelles
You probably remember the first time you saw City of God. Spanning dozens of characters but never stuck on one for long, Fernando Meirelles's brain-busting breakthrough subverted its own slum-chic one sizzle at a time, turning everything sexy into miniaturized tragedy before ricocheting down yet another blind alley. It was as if Harvey Weinstein had cloned Jonas Åkerlund and Gillo Pontecorvo in the same petri dish, kickstarting a decade of Brazilian arthouse acquisitions—the more color-saturated and favela-obsessed, the better. It hardly mattered; the product was so good, surely Meirelles was an Important New Voice In World Cinema. But ten years and three features later, his 360 is a hideously empty valentine to global plugged-in-ism, a two-hour airline commercial without even the militant hugginess of Paris, J'e taime or the delusional fire-and-brimstone of Babel.
An empty suit (Jude Law) is tempted by a prostitute while in Vienna on business, but ends up sheepishly voicemailing his wife (Rachel Weisz) instead. Back in London, she tries to end a torrid affair with a young Brazilian photographer (Juliano Cazarré), whose girlfriend (Maria Flor) catches wind of it and heads back to Rio. Landing herself next to Anthony Hopkins on a flight grounded in Denver due to snowstorms, she makes a lunch plan with him, but breaks it to take a chance on hooking up with Ben Foster—here, playing a just-paroled-after-six-years-in-prison sex offender who can't keep his cool at the airport. If you can't see where screenwriter Peter Morgan's going with this, consider a line handed to Foster over the phone by his social worker: “If you weren't able to cope with this challenge, it wouldn't have been put in front of you.” A cheap philosophy is content to announce itself and leave it at that.
Heaving the drunk, heartbroken Latina in with the tattooed heartland pervert in a motel room is the closest the filmmakers flirt with taking some kind of position, but the scene's manicured unpredictability actually becomes its punchline. This process repeats itself ad nauseum as the world keeps on turnin', Meirelles invariably stitching his subplots together with Euro chick-rock and cutesy voiceovers. 360's commitment is to non-commitment, celebrating its incipient idea-nuggets without ever pushing or pulling them, a choice which probably felt true to life on the page, but becomes excruciating around the 20-minute mark. The cast is solid, and the guy knows how to work an individual scene—thinking more in takes than in shots—but the hapless script makes not for a movie, but for a demo.
Opens August 3