Without having read the source material, I went into Water for Elephants with no preconceived notions. I’d heard chatter that Pattinson and Witherspoon were miscast due to age, but other than that, I knew nothing of the film. I witnessed three things last night.
First, beautiful cinematography. As a photographer, this is one of the first things I notice about motion pictures. All to often, modern cinematographers will focus on gimmicks to dazzle audiences, but Water for Elephants relied on classic, delicate and careful camera moves to tell its story. There is a one shot early in the film, as the protagonist Jacob walks through train cars, that seriously rivals Goodfellas.
Second, I saw Robert Pattinson come into his own as an actor. I’d seen him in Remember Me and hadn’t been too impressed, his quiet and brooding nature of a similar note as his Edward Cullen from Twilight. To me, Water for Elephants proves that he is an actor with a bright future. Jacob was a challenging role and Pattinson really delivered.
Lastly, Christoph Waltz proved that the praise he received for Inglorious Basterds was no fluke, that Waltz is truly a phenomenal actor with an equally bright career ahead, though perhaps with a much different trajectory.
If you’re on the fence about seeing Water for Elephants, I recommend that you see it. On the big screen, the magic of the circus truly comes alive. If you’re like me, worried that a depression era film about a circus starring the kid from Twilight would be underwhelming, I think you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised.