360 (2012)

Short Cuts did it. Magnolia did it. Even the deplorable likes of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve did it. Now there’s 360, the latest film to take the concept of jigsaw storytelling – one that follows the courses of numerous interconnecting lives – and run with it across the globe for a pleasingly transcontinental tale of passion and betrayal. Think of it as the anti-Love Actually; a smorgasbord of misery, love and pain that occasionally grips but never rivets.

Of the numerous intertwining strands, Anthony Hopkins’ is the most interesting simply because he is Anthony Hopkins. We meet him aboard a plane (thankfully not serving a child brains a la Hannibal) as he travels to Phoenix to identify a young woman who could be his missing daughter. As stories go, it’s not exactly a screamer, but what we do get is Hopkins quietly effusing like only he can during a five-minute monologue. It’s a timely reminder of what a fine actor he truly is.

That segment is 360’s emotional zenith. Sadly, the film’s myriad other plots, which sweep from Vienna to Paris to London, often fail to rouse. Rachel Weisz is particularly underserved as a cheating wife whose husband (Jude Law) is also tempted to stray. The fact that their plotline is invested with the emotional wallop of a wet flan is mostly due to the nature of the film, which splits its time between so many globe-trotting characters that it can’t help but feel thin on the ground.

Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) does try, though, and 360 possesses certain admirable qualities. For a start, there’s an anarchic glee to seeing a cast of impressive unknowns given 50% more screen time than headlining stars like Weisz and Law. Vladimir Vdovichenkov in particular is attention-grabbing as Sergei, a bodyguard to a wild-tempered gangster who’s going through something of a mid-life crisis. His segment closes out the film, and finally gives us some excitement – though it’s pretty much too little too late.

Consider 360 a hit-and-miss experiment. There are the occasional nice touches (a ringtone that functions as a scene’s tension-eking soundtrack) and Ben Foster is magnetic as ever playing a released sex offender stranded in a busy airport. The likes of Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson worked the concept far harder in their time, though, and 360 suffers under such obvious comparisons. It’s a film that chases its own tale for 100 minutes, leaving little impression once the credits have rolled. 2/5

Via Grolsch Film Works

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)

Explosions. Gypsies. Gunfights. There’s a lot going on in Sherlock Holmes’ second big screen sleuth-‘em-up. But to director Guy Ritchie’s credit, Game Of Shadows never loses sight of the thing that made the first Holmes so explosive – the crotchety interplay between the titular detective and his eye-rolling sidekick. Who knew that homoeroticism could be so lucrative?

Clearly the minds behind Shadows do. Whereas the Holmes/Watson bromance of the first film felt almost like a happy mistake, here Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law’s married couple-aping bickering is cranked up another notch. To the extent that the duo even sweep the ballroom, hand in hand, for a brief musical interlude. Because yes, Shadows is all about this twittering twosome. Sure, Noomi Rapace (of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame) has been recruited as a French gypsy, but even she ends up merely staring at her quarrelsome male companions in wonder and bewilderment.

Thank goodness, then, for Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who ensures that this isn’t a game without purpose. Like Holmes himself, you’d need a ball of wool and a very big wall to fully understand Shadow’s convoluted, runaway train of a plotline. But that’s OK, because with Moriarty established as Holmes’ foe early on, we know that wherever this wild goose chase is going, it’s all going to come to a climax with Holmes going giant brain to giant brain against Professor M.

Game Of Shadows is a far more assured film than its predecessor. Though the action set-pieces are plentiful, it knows when to take a breather. The humour is also pricklier, with Stephen Fry landing some chucklesome barbs as Sherlock’s flouncing brother. Who cares if it’s all completely ludicrous? Who cares if Holmes seems more psychic than cleverly deductive? In Ritchie’s film, even the mystery plays second fiddle to Downey Jr and Law’s verbal (and occasionally physical) tête-à-tête, meaning even if you haven’t got a clue what’s going on, you’ll be having a rollicking good time anyway. 4/5