360 (15) **
Brave (PG) **

Bland bed-hoppers going round in circles

Fate, choice, love: weighty themes, we can all agree. It is a curious effect of the ensemble drama 360 that its makers seem to believe they have not just addressed these themes but somehow invented them too.

Such is the danger of confusing scale with depth. This film has all the scale it can handle, being one of those oh-the-humanity numbers that flits about the globe tracing connections between a bunch of apparently disparate (desperate) characters. Vienna, London, Paris, Rio, Miami and Denver are among the places they stop over. With planes crisscrossing the skies a dominant leitmotif, the film asks us to be impressed by the distance it travels to join them all up.

It sounds like a job for the marketing department of British Airways, but in fact it's been undertaken by director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen). It opens with a Slovenian callgirl (Lucia Siposova) missing an assignation in a Vienna bar with Jude Law's straying businessman. Law's wife (Rachel Weisz) is involved in an affair with a hunky photographer (Juliano Cazarre), whose girlfriend (Maria Flor) has been tracking his infidelity. In Paris, a dentist (Jamel Debbouze) is torn between his Muslim faith and love for his married assistant (Dinara Drukarova), whose unhappy marriage inclines her chauffeur husband (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to dally with the call-girl's sister (Gabriela Marcinkova). Meanwhile, on a flight to Miami bereaved father Anthony Hopkins encounters the photographer's fleeing girlfriend, who puts herself in danger with a convicted sex offender (Ben Foster) on his first day of release.

The inspiration for this daisy chain of desire and rejection is La Ronde, with the global tiki-taka of Babel and 21 Grams also exerting an influence. Morgan's script doesn't quite match Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for levels of self-importance, though you could argue that a sense of grandeur has got the better of him. The film is so busy levering its characters into position it comes up fatally short on characterisation. Do we really believe in their faltering marriage when we have so little evidence of Law and Weisz as people?

As for the various cute meets, they are not enough to lend shape and weight to the characters involved in them. Gabriela Marcinkova's solemn face is a wonderful thing – one only wishes she had been allowed to do more with it. There simply isn't enough screentime for these people to come alive. The exception, oddly, is Hopkins, whose acting I believed had long ago calcified into mannerism. His portrait of a father in search of his daughter, missing presumed dead, is quietly affecting, and the long monologue he does at an AA group meeting is by a distance the best thing here.

This is the sort of big-issue film that producers get very excited about and consequently do their damnedest to fill with a "prestige" cast. Meirelles and co have got that much, but their mistake is to go wide instead of deep. In the end the film it most recalls isn't Babel but the multi-story romance of Love Actually, Richard Curtis's soppy valentine to those Three Little Words. Beneath the tender illusion of strangers bonding with one another you feel the cold manipulation of a commercial artist. 360 has the look of something significant, but it's a put-on: dud, actually.

Brave, an animated fairytale about a mediaeval Scottish princess, presents a problem. If it were the sole work of Disney you would give two cheers for effort and promptly forget all about it. But the film has been made in partnership with Pixar, undisputed masters of the digimated art both in technical wizardry and emotional wallop. Yes, Pixar – so far ahead of the field that they are now obliged to be their own competitors. You can argue the toss over which of the Toy Story trilogy is the greatest, then spend a happy half-hour ranking The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up and the rest in a league table of greatness. On that basis, Brave would be placed way down low – bottom of the heap, I'm afraid.

Its story is one of teenage hubris played against mother-love. Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a flame-haired young princess who loves to charge about on horseback and show off her archery skills. She's a wilful young miss, too, and won't easily submit to the royal destiny her mother, the Queen (Emma Thompson) and her King (Billy Connolly) have in store for her. Their plan to marry off their daughter to a likely laird – one from a scrum of brawling neanderthals – drives Merida to a desperate recourse. Happening on a local witch (Julie Walters) the girl acquires a cake that will put her mother under a spell, thus freeing her from nuptial obligations. But the poisoned cake turns the Queen into a bear, and not the cuddly sort but a giant roaring grizzly.

The film, laboured in setting up the conflict, now goes berserk as Queen exits the family castle pursued by the bloodthirsty King and his huntsmen. It's manic without being seductive or ingenious, though this isn't the film's real drawback. That would be the wholly misconceived character of Merida herself. Even if you can get round her distracting resemblance to Rebekah Brooks, the girl is a royal pain in the neck – petulant, whiny, disagreeable – and an outrageous sulk to boot.

Even when her meddling has put her mother in peril she still plays the victim: actually, dear, a humble apology would have sufficed. Against the script's plain intentions you find yourself rooting not for Merida but for her mum, suddenly reduced to the bear necessities. This ursine transformation is the best thing here, startling at first, then funny, and finally quite moving, even without the swirling pipe music to amp up the pathos. Brave still has flashes of the Pixar magic here and there, but from a studio that's a byword for genius this must count as a misfire.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little