Arthur Schnitzler’s landmark play “La Ronde” has inspired any number of revivals and knock-offs due to its structure where Character A meets Character B, who in turn encounters Character C, and so forth until Character M winds up back with Character A. Paul Haggis’ dreadful movie “Crash” has inspired any number of ripoffs in which it turns out that Character A is Character D’s neighbor after Character L saves Character E’s life in an airport.
Put both of these tired tropes together, and you’ve got “360,” a movie that thinks it's brimming over with profound observations about alienation and interconnectedness but is instead a hollow collection of coincidences interspersed with platitudes about This Modern Life.
Just like the Schnitzler play, “360” starts with a prostitute, namely Mirka (Lucia Siposová), whom we meet as she is posing for pictures on an escorting website. As she starts turning tricks, we begin a globe-trotting trek of linked storylines that will eventually encompass a British auto executive (Jude Law), his unfulfilled, magazine-editing wife (Rachel Weisz), a Brazilian photographer (Juliano Cazzaré), his disenchanted girlfriend (Maria Flor), a grieving father (Anthony Hopkins), a lovesick dentist (Jamel Debbouze) and a newly-paroled convict (Ben Foster).
Given the pretentious and thoroughly artificial flavor of his previous films “City of God” and “Blindness,” this kind of arthouse-for-the-easily-impressed gear-grinding feels expected from director Fernando Meireilles, who seems to be channeling Alejandro González Iñárritu on anti-depressants. “360” shares the small-world-ain’t-it structure of Iñárritu movies like “Babel” and “21 Grams” but goes light on the fatalism and misery.
Screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”) alternates between on-the-nose exchanges of dialogue (if strangers weren’t constantly opening up to one another, there’d be no movie) and completely unbelievable actions, particularly involving his female characters. Two of them, who have been presented as sensible women who would know better, plunge headfirst into potentially dangerous situations with men, seemingly on a whim, for no apparent reason other than to keep the plot going.
None of the cast of international actors necessarily embarrasses themselves, but it’s the sort of movie where they should mainly be judged for their ability to spin gold out of the straw they’re being given. By those standards, it’s the lesser-known Siposová, Flor, Gabriela Marcinkova (as the call girl’s sister) and Dinara Drukarova (as the dentist’s assistant) who capture our attention despite being given so little to play.
“360” throws in enough cold weather, meaningful stares and cursory explorations of globalism to fool audiences into thinking they’ve seen something important, but there’s nothing new or resonant going on here. By the end, the feeling isn’t so much a complete circle as it is a movie lapping itself.