In the blandly titled 360, director Fernando Meirelles ( City of God) and screenwriter Peter Morgan ( Frost/Nixon, The Queen) take their turn at one of those everything-is-connected movies in which various characters in different parts of the world unwittingly impact each others lives. The films generic, meaningless title is a sign of the blandness to come.
In London, an unhappily married couple (Jude Law and Rachel Weisz) has edged into glum infidelity. In Denver, a sex offender (Ben Foster) just out of prison meets a flirtatious Brazilian woman (Maria Flor). In Paris, a dentist (Jamel Debbouze) harbors a crush on his assistant. There are Slovenian hookers and Russian mobsters and a grieving father (Anthony Hopkins) on the trail of his missing daughter.
Most of the characters are connected, often in ways that are invisible. 360 was inspired by Max Ophuls 1950 classic La ronde, which in turn was based on an 1897 play by Arthur Schnitzler. When done right, this sort of rotating-chair narrative can be devastating (Robert Altmans Short Cuts, a panoramic depiction of Los Angeles) or even mind-blowing (Alejandro González Inárritus Babel, in which a stray bullet changes the lives of people on four different continents). But 360, which Morgan says was inspired by the recent global economic crisis, doesnt hold together because its disparate storylines are so uneven, its characters often unbelievable (the relationship between Foster and Flor is particularly strained).
Meirelles, whose previous film Blindness suffered from a static, suffocating style, tricks out 360 with lots of vivid visuals and split screens. But the effect is like putting lipstick on a pig: Before you can build a daisy-chain narrative of overlapping stories and fateful coincidences, you have to come up with characters that merit the attention.