Director Francis Lawrence (I AM LEGEND) and writer Richard LaGravenese (THE FISHER KING) do a rare cinematic achievement when having a book as the source material — they make the story better. They made all the right choices in what to cut, keep and change. The changes make the film more dramatic, but not in a maudlin way. Everything that happens is more immediate. The Depression-era setting only reminds us of the melodramas of that age, which this film fits in with surprisingly well.
Jacob (Robert Pattinson, TWILIGHT) was taking his last final in veterinary sciences at Cornell when he gets word that his parents have died in a car accident. They had mortgaged their house and business to pay for his education, so the bank takes everything. Now orphaned, he decides to jump a train. Luckily, he ends up on a circus train in the car of Camel (Jim Norton, STRAW DOGS), a friendly, drunk roustabout who helps him get work. When it’s found that he is an Ivy League vet, he is taken before the boss, August (Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), an intimidating man who isn’t unfamiliar with violence as a way of making people do what he wants.