Now here's a switcheroo thought experiment for you: keep pretty much the entire plot, but swap Claude Rains for Waltz, Vivien Leigh for Witherspoon and a young Henry Fonda for Pattinson. Then remove 'Francis Lawrence' from the directors credit and replace it with 'George Cukor' and presto change-o: you've got yourself a fair-to-middling Hollywood Golden Age women's picture.
And a great deal of this film is old-fashioned beyond the plot: Robert Pattinson is a matinee idol of the old school, the film is lovingly shot by Rodrigo Prieto on good old 35mm with deliciously rich colouration, Waltz recalls a classic Hollywood kind of villain and Reese Witherspoon looks exactly like the kind of star that Jack Woltz would have groomed through the old studio system.
It has to be said, though, that for all its classiness it lacks depth, and for all that it's very decently put together I just didn't enjoy it. I'm not really the target audience to be fair (and the theatre was filled with an odd mix of pensioners and Twilight-age teenage girls) but nonetheless I doubt this will be in any end-of-year polls come December-time.
Then there are also the troubling (and ironic) allegations of animal cruelty - though it should be noted that the American Humane Association gave the film their 'no animals were harmed' seal of approval. For what it's worth, I really have a hard time watching animal cruelty even when it's entirely special effect/CGI, and in any case it's kind of a cheap shot in terms of storytelling (George Lucas once noted that emotionally engaging an audience was easy - juts choke a kitten on camera) so having Christoph Waltz prove his devilishness by thwacking an elephant into a bloody mess with a hooked iron rod is an easy way out, from a storytelling perspective.