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5.0 out of 5 stars "...Which Way To Turn?" - 360 On BLU RAY, 16 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: 360 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
In the bar of Budapest's Steigenberger Hotel a handsome British Executive Michael Daly (Jude Law) is staring down into a whiskey as he waits for someone. A Slovakian woman arrives at the bar and orders red wine - dressed well enough to get in but sexily enough to be obviously open for business (a fantastic Lucia Siposova). Just as Michael is about to make a mistake that will threaten his marriage to Rose (his beautiful wife played by Rachel Weisz) - two smarmy businessmen he'd met with earlier in the day arrive to renegotiate a deal (one of whom is Peter Morgan the writer in a cameo). They notice both Michael and the hooker he was heading towards. As they condescendingly look her up sex ratings on the net - Michael takes a mobile phone call from his tiny daughter at home who wants a dog.

In Paris - Algerian Jamel Debbouze obsessively follows an employee lady friend from the back seat of a taxi desperately wanting to tell her of his passion. In the USA a tattooed imprisoned convict (about to get out) talks to his parole office about his urges towards young girls he now feels he has under control (a stunning Ben Foster).

A bereaved English father (Anthony Hopkins) meets another stray young lady on a plane and at the airport after they land - John worries that she (like his daughter) may become another victim. A brutish but essentially decent Ukrainian driver listens to language CDs in his car as Sergei dreams of better things than the whiplash tongue of his odious boss...

The structurally complicated "360" ploughs the same world-citizen territory of 2006's "Babel" with its ten different stories converging on each other and is equally brilliant for it. This is about ordinary people - good people - struggling to do the right thing while one action carried out somewhere else connects them or threatens to derail them in a domino effect. And how in the end - if you're lucky and let go enough - life will come full circle and mostly in a good way...

Directed by Fernando Meirelles ("City Of God" and "The Constant Gardener") from an original screenplay by Peter Morgan ("The Queen" and "The Last King Of Scotland") - "360" also lets its huge ensemble cast improvise for freshness and cleverly uses split screens to show up to three stories progressing at the same time.

Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz attached themselves to the script early on and clearly got the film made - both loving the process (and it shows). Ben Foster and Jude Law are simply the acting icing on the cake. Each is mesmerizing in their wildly different roles - especially Foster whose part is the most creepy difficult to like let alone empathize with (achieves both). Weisz and Hopkins are so beautifully tender too. There's a scene where Rose has a extramarital dalliance with a handsome Brazilian gentleman in a bedroom (when earlier she professed undying devotion to her husband Michael) that is amazing - while Hopkins literally rips your heart out as he explains at a meeting for bereaved parents his newfound wisdom of sorts. "360" features great actors at the top of their game allowed by filmmakers smart enough to let them shine.

But while the more famous leads gobble up great writing and parts - what gives "360" its five-star rating is the unknowns who steal the show and give this life's connections overview such bite and reality. Even as a seasoned watcher - you really don't know any of these actors from all different nationalities - and yet they etch their characters into your heart to a point where you're desperate to see them break free from their physical and emotional chains. The ladies in particular are amazing - clearly relishing a generous and humane Director and a writer with a big heart and a sharp eye. But special mention must go to Vladimir Vdovichenkov (Russian) and Gabriella Marcinkova (Czechoslovakian) as the chauffeur and aimless daughter who may leave their sordid worlds behind and literally drive away to new lives...

The BLU RAY picture is defaulted to 2:35.1 so has bars above and below - but even with stretching to 16 x 9 full screen - gives a beautiful picture (the cinematography relishing Vienna, Budapest and Paris in the Winter). Other moments are less defined especially the indoor shots of sleazy photo labs and hotel rooms - filmed with an on-the-go grittiness that's in keeping with the story. The master audio is 5.1 DTS with English Subtitles. The extras include a short interview with Brazilian Director Fernando Meirelles about the making of the film (financing, plot lines etc.) and interviews with the actors including the 4 principal leads and the Producer Andrew Eaton and Writer Peter Morgan.

Rich in observations and wisdom - "360" is a fantastic film that will stay with you despite its convoluted structure. And whatever turns you may take in life - make sure you visit this humble little gem somewhere along that thorny way...
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Mark Barry "Mark Barry"
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 19