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360

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360

Anthony Hopkins in a scene from '360'

Magnolia Pictures
Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) knows exactly how to pluck dramatic strings--quite literally with an opening credits that move from a seedy escort office to bus station accompanied by Tom Waits' signature growl. 360 is a visual tone poem to every type of cliched emotion, temptation and resolution that can be ignored, but should be embraced. Meirelles favors whimsy musical transitions as a way of leaping from character to character in this sprawling, trans-European attempt at Crash. But where Paul Haggis used Don Cheadle to deliver the soliloquy on interaction in Los Angeles, here Anthony Hopkins--credited as "Older Man"--unintentionally references the recent Internet meme "YOLO" by ending a speech with "You only live once. How many chances do we get?"
Cheadle had an overturned car to wax poetic, Hopkins does so in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that literally serves as the halfway point for the story. The entire structure of 360 relies on a series of intertwining characters that barely require any exposition, since they're such familiar dramatic tropes.

Marika works with her sister Anna on her clumsy English as Blanka, the enterprising lady of the night that wants to make as much money as she can, who meets Michael Daly (Jude Law), a businessman in Vienna. But as moral plays go, Daly's conscious gets the better of him and a scorned salesman (Moritz Bleibtreu) takes advantage of the failed tryst as leverage. The scenes shift with jazzy notes and slide transitions so frequently, there's a chance that Steven Soderbergh had a hand in these edits--or at least someone was watching Ocean's Eleven.

As for the other plots? It's like every sort of soap opera cliché imaginable from convicted sex offender (Ben Foster) going to the room of a woman looking to get revenge on her boyfriend to a simple dentist being forced, by his psychiatrist, to choose between violating his religion or having an affair.

The point that Meirelles continually brings us back to, from Peter Morgan's (Frost/Nixon,The Queen) script, involves the right mix of melodrama with absurdist fantasy. As characters travel around the world, their lives intersecting, planes and cars take on a dream-like state for us. One drive from Paris to Vienna morphs into a trippy light show that should be foreboding, but we learn the driver has safely pulled off-road to take a nap.There's also the continuous nod to travel and airplanes, which sneak into nearly every frame until one transition involves a plane flying through the head of "Algerian Man" (Jamel Debbouze).

Even generalizing a character's name in the credits, despite giving him something generic in the film like John in the case of Hopkins' character, is a bland-but-universal touch. 360 represents a world stage with effects and counter-effects, much like Alejandro Iñarritu's Babel. The key difference being Iñárritu explored the depths of language and miscommunication, while Morgan and Meirelles revel in simplifying their message. So much that a running plot theme involves two characters practicing their linguistic skills until their eventual meeting comes across as a hodge podge of Russian, Englsih and Czech.

360 doesn't embrace the global loneliness of Babel or neediness of Crash. It's the latest to join in on the craze of interconnection, which is normally showcased through technology or social media. Instead it takes such campy ideas as a father searching for his lost daughter, or a parallel of couples working through their issues to really strike a tone. They may be familiar clichés, but 360 thrives by enforcing and reflecting them back at the audience.

360 (2012) Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Distributors: Magnolia Pictures

DIRECTOR

Fernando MeirellesP> CAST Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Jamel Debbouze, Maria Flor

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