Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 10th, 2013
Everything comes full circle.
There's a wonderful video floating around on the web of South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone discussing storytelling at an NYU class. One of the "secrets" of storytelling that Trey Parker shares is that the series of events in a story shouldn't be joined by "and then." Instead, he advocates ensuring every moment in a story be connected by a "therefore" or a "but." His idea is that compelling storytelling is created by ensuring that everything that happens in the story is explained solely by the elements in the story itself rather than the "and then" whims of the creator. It's a wonderful piece of advice for creators, but not every story gets told that way. The twenty-first century has seen a proliferation of films that follow the seemingly random events that connects peoples' lives, emphasizing the very chaotic nature of our lives at the cost of storytelling momentum. Director Fernando Meirelles opts for this approach in his third feature, 360. Fans of the actors or the approach might be pleased, but there's less substance here than in his previous films.
A tale of interlocking characters, 360 starts with Mirka (Lucia Sipososvá, Dark Spirits), a prostitute who meets a businessman (Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley) who can't quite bring himself to be unfaithful to his wife. He journeys home, greeted by his wife (Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener), who has fallen out of love with him. She has another encounter, and so on until the film is over, showing just how intimately connected all these lives are.
In The Constant Gardener, Meirelles used the nonlinear nature of his narrative to great effect, emphasizing the depth of his characters' loss by playing with the chronology of their fates. This departure from traditional storytelling served his thematic material well and the result was a well-crafted film that worked as a thriller, a love story, and a mediation on grief and loss. In contrast, 360 bucks the typical storytelling trends, but does so only to string tiny beads of character on the thinnest of narrative threads. Only the random happenings of their lives bring these characters together. The necklace these beads create might have a bit of beauty, but it's also liable to snap the second you stop caring about any particular bead, unlike the weighty feel of Meirelles' previous films.
Whatever your feelings about the film's domino-style narrative, 360 (Blu-ray) is a great way to see the film. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is excellent across the board. Shot on film (including some 16mm material), 360 has a beautifully filmlike appearance here. Grain is present but unobtrusive, detail is sharp, and colors are muted but well-saturated. Black levels are consistent and appropriately deep. There might some minor quibbles in some of the softer moments (due to shallow depth of field), but the film looks great. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is even more impressive. Relying on atmosphere to carry the day, this surround treatment uses ambient sound to great effect. Dialogue is well-balanced and easy to hear. Hard subtitles are included for foreign-language dialogue, and there is an optional English SDH track as well.
Extras start with a 13-minute making-of featurette that mixes cast and crew interviews with production material and scene from the finished film. It's not terribly informative, but it does give a bit of background. There's also a picture-in-picture comparison that lets you watch a scene being filmed in the main window and the finished scene from the film in the pop-up view. There's an EPK-style "Look at 360" that runs 5 minutes and doesn't cover anything beyond the already brief making-of. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer is included.
This kind of narrative (or lack of one) has never been my cup of tea. However, I can't argue with a cast like this. Everyone involved gives an interesting performance, the highlights being Rachel Weisz and Ben Foster. Usually Weisz plays either a love interest or a mother figure (sometimes both). Here, however, she has to play complete disinterest in her husband -- played by Jude Law, no less. In contrast, Ben Foster plays a recently released sex offender and he draws on the same dark energy that he brought to films like 30 Days of Night. Because of their capable performances, I was often left wishing I could see a film about either one of these characters instead of 360. The rest of the cast performs admirably as well, especially the always-dependable Anthony Hopkins and Jude Law.
I also can't fault Meirelles' eye, since 360 looks great, and that's not just because of the excellent Blu-ray. He favors a muted color palette and very shallow depth of field. That tends to isolate his actors (who are often attractive people) from the background even as he often throws them into crowded situations. Whether you choose to follow the plot or not, 360 isn't bad to look at for 110 minutes.
Meirelle's 360 is a well-acted and well-shot film about the subtle connections between people, one that actually has little to say about those connections or those people. Though I can't argue with the casting or the cinematography, I left 360 feeling more disconnected. Fans of the actors or Meirelles' previous efforts might want to give this one a rental, and fans of the film itself can buy this excellent Blu-ray release with confidence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R