Derailed (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Spoilers – sort of: Although this is not a spoiler-heavy review, there are implied spoilers. While specifics are not revealed, anyone good at reading between lines may learn more about the movie than they want to. Those in search of a "virgin" movie experience are hereby warned.

Derailed is yet another in the seemingly endless line of stupid, generic thrillers that Hollywood foists upon the movie-going public. Tedious and predictable, it employs obvious situations and clichés instead of genuine suspense-building elements. Those who haven't figured out the movie's "twist" long before it's explicitly revealed are either thriller newbies or aren't paying attention - a characteristic that is understandable considering the poor quality of what's on screen. A nap would be a better way to spend 105 minutes. Any dream that occurred during such a sleep period would offer a stronger narrative and more impressive character development than Derailed.

Derailed doesn't begin off-track. The first twenty minutes are decent as the film examines some of the impulses that can lead to infidelity and the conflicting emotions that go along with a new affair. Once the movie enters thriller territory, however, it comes apart at the seams. Character development stops cold. Red herring subplots abound. And the main storyline plods along in such a pedestrian and unsurprising fashion that we're always at least two steps ahead of the protagonist. This makes him seem slow and stupid. And there's neither energy nor atmosphere.

Charles Schine (Clive Owen) is a faithful husband to his young-ish bride, Deanna (Melissa George), and a dutiful father to his ill daughter, Amy (Addison Timlin). He has no thoughts of straying until a chance encounter on a morning train with the ravishing Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston) tempts him to temporarily put aside his vows. She, like Charles, is married, although her union isn't as harmonious as his. Her husband is absent 24/7, but at least she has a darling three-year old daughter to keep her happy. Sparks fly between the two, and they find themselves in a seedy hotel room about to consummate the relationship when they are interrupted. A Chicago thief with a French accent, Philippe Laroche (Vincent Cassel), breaks in on them, robs them, beats up Charles, and rapes Lucinda. That ordeal ends the not-really-begun affair, but not the terror. Philippe begins blackmailing Charles and, at Lucinda's urging, he decides not to go to the police, opting instead to handle matters on his own.

Clive Owen is one of the best actors working today, but this may be the worst performance of his career. Perhaps understandably, he looks bored by the material and the limited challenge of the role. He's a void, and his co-star doesn't help. Jennifer Aniston is miscast as the semi-femme fatale. The part requires more than she is able to give, and we never believe her as Lucinda. The only one with any juice is Vincent Cassel, but he can play a psychotic thug in his sleep.

It's hard to know whether to blame Swedish-born director Mikael Håfström, screenwriter Stuart Beattie, or the guy who wrote the book, James Siegel. Being a generous reviewer, I'll spread the blame around. Derailed adds nothing to the genre, and is an insult even to someone just on the lookout for a mindless thrill. (It delivers on the "mindless" part but not the "thrill.") It makes the messy Where the Truth Lies seem like a model of coherence and intelligence. As for the dialogue… the less said the better. Some of the lines in Derailed are cheesy enough that they may threaten to bring on a bout of giggles. Plus, just to make sure the film doesn't clock in with too short a running length, we get the obligatory "fake ending." Of course, it will be obvious to anyone that another "shock" is on the way when everything has apparently been wrapped up and the movie is still chugging along. More apt names than Derailed don't come along often. At least The Weinstein Company & Miramax can't be accused with falseness in advertising where the title is concerned.

Derailed (United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:45
U.S. Release Date: 2005-11-11
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1