Every once in a while, we’re assured that everyone, everywhere, is somehow connected to one another, whether through philanthropy or philosophy or what-have-you. Sometimes, we’re reminded, at the movies, of this wondrous notion, in a tidy two-hour span of time. Doesn’t it sound like a ripe source for drama, the idea that many people from many walks of life can and do unwittingly affect the lives of total strangers?
It’s a concept that has been milked before by many a filmmaker, and now it’s Fernando Meirelles’ turn. The Oscar-nominated director of “City of God,” “The Constant Gardener” and “Blindness” has teamed up with the Oscar-nominated writer of “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon” to give the ensemble roundelay format a shot... and they’ve missed the mark with “360.”
We start out in Vienna, where a young woman from Bratislava models for her new online profile as a call girl. Her disapproving sister tags along, but doesn’t prevent her from attending her first appointment with an English businessman (Jude Law), although his business associates do stop him. He calls it off, then calls his wife (Rachel Weisz); she in turn breaks off her own affair in London with a Brazilian photographer; his former flame is heartbroken at notion and returns to Rio, meeting a man (Anthony Hopkins) on her flight home who’s seeking his missing daughter in America, and so on.
It’s easy to give away all that's going on in “360” because there’s so very little to it. We hopscotch from person to person, continent to continent, grievance to grievance until things come thuddingly full circle (thus, the title). Everybody’s driven by their desires for someone else, and displays of compassion often have their consequences. There are split-screen conversations galore and an oddly jazzy score that suggests the stakes on screen are even lower than they seem to be at any given point.
As such, the result isn’t especially compelling, romantic, comedic or profound. It’s never as (occasionally) powerful as “21 Grams,” “Babel,” “Code Unknown,” “Crash” or “Margaret,” nor ever quite as ponderous as the likes of “The Air I Breathe” and “Seven Pounds.” If anything, the contrivances seem easiest to swallow when several characters, including Hopkins’ character and a recently released sex offender played by Ben Foster, are confined to a Denver airport during a blizzard. Foster’s been jittery like this before, but he brings an odd vulnerability to his few scenes as the heartbroken Brazilian woman insists on getting drunk and imposing herself on a man who hasn’t had contact with the outside world in six years.
It’s only when Meirelles and Morgan return to making unlikely international connections between characters that the premise shows its strain. Those lured in by star power alone might find themselves sorely disappointed by what little part each name actor has in this tapestry, not to knock the equally naturalistic performances of many lesser-known actors alongside Weisz, Law, Hopkins, and Foster. In the end, the greatest shame about “360” isn’t that we’re all seemingly connected, but that none of this ever really seems to connect with us.
“360” is currently available On Demand through cable providers, Amazon, iTunes and such, and opens in select cities on Friday.