Regarding the opening scene: I think it's as Bondo suggested, a kind of rorschach test - people are repulsed, or whichever verb they choose to use, by the opening scene, but are prepared to pay good money to watch a film in which women are murdered and raped.
Personally, the opening scene surprised me, because I read the book a while back and could not recall the BBW strip club scene. I didn't mind the opening scene, though, based upon the above interpretation. Confrontational.
I don't know why Ford made some of the ammendments he did. In the novel, 'Gyllenhall' and 'Addams' were married, I don't think there was an abortion, she left him for another guy because he was dropping out of law school (I think?) to become a writer. Her decision was much more justified. In fact Susan was a much, much, much more sympathetic character. Ford has taken some of the subtlety (not that there's much to be had... it's a page turner, not a Mann-style exploration of the overriding philosophical and scientific concerns of the day) out of the novel and replaced it with sledghammer heavy imagery...
indeed. Cue dramatic hamster, or whatever that youtube thing is? Gopher? Chipmunk? Is it a chipmunk?
Anyway, back to the movie...
I watched the film out of intrigue as to how the layered narrative would be handled and I'm not sure how well Ford pulls it off. There is a neat totemistic (correct word?) use of physical items, which are used to tie the three narratives together - a cinematic solution to the problem such an adaptation.
I didn't buy Gyllenhall as helpless against Aaron Johnson or either of the other two hijackers, either, as he's physically bigger than any of them. Nor did I think Gyllenhall gave a particularly good performance.
I don't know. Maybe I'm wasted too much time on a fairly unsatisfying film.