I went into this not knowing much beyond what Scorsese told Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. True Story? France? Stuff about early films? OK.
There are some odd uses of 3D in certain sequences that seem like a series of 2D cutouts zooming toward us, which is the only glaring error in its implementation here. For the most part it was subtle and immersive, the way it ought to be.
One scene features some truly bizarre points of view with the camera underneath the walkway looking up at the soles of people’s feet and a strange superimposition of Chloe Grace Moretz’s face on the overwhelming crowd. This was so weird that it had me paying attention to the artifice instead of being caught up in the emotions of the scene.
Without unpacking any of the plot, since the facts are historical, I’d have to say that the film itself was exceptional. Scorsese himself said that one of the driving forces behind making this was so that he would have made something his daughter could watch, and there are a few elements that stand out as “this is for a kids’ movie, right?” without the natural touch and polish of a skilled artisan, but the narrative structure and just how enveloped in Asa Butterfield’s performance I was exhibit true craftsmanship.
Butterfield will probably grow up to be amazing, as will Moretz. Watching them on screen is captivating. Ben Kingsley’s performance was so full of pain and anguish, almost akin to confusion, it was very difficult at first to get a real sense of his motivations.
To sum up, the movie was a real tearjerker and well worth seeing on a big screen. The trailers tried to sell a slightly different movie, but that’s not as important as the lessons of dealing with grief and love that are found here.