Sunday, June 18, 2006


Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Starring: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa
George,  Giancarlo Esposito, Alvin "Xzbit," Joiner, RZA, Addison Timlin
Running Time: 106 min.
Rating: R

★★★ (out of ★★★★) 

Derailed is a movie about what happens when an ordinary event spirals out of control, producing extraordinary results. Anyone who's considered writing a screenplay should probably study it since writing a script like this is within the grasp of everyone. I say that not as a knock on the film, which is well-executed and clever, but because it takes one event and shows how someone reacts in a way that makes sense. Not once did I think the main character reacted in an unbelievable way or in a manner that any of us wouldn't have. One decision leads to another as it should while the protagonist digs himself deeper and deeper, all the while making what seems like logical decisions at the time.

Charles Schine (Clive Owen) is miserable. His daughter's (Addison Timlin) dying. His wife (Melissa George) hates him. He lost a big account at work. One day on the commuter train he meets financial advisor Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston) who's nice enough to pay his way when he realizes he has no money. This leads to a conversation, which leads to lunch, which leads to drinks. Pretty soon they're at a cheap hotel ready to have sex. This is where the movie really begins. Before they know it, a crook (Vincent Cassel) has a gun to Lucinda's head. He takes their money, pistol whips Charles and rapes Lucinda. Charles thinks he's seen the last of him. He hasn't. He's put in a position where he can't go to the police initially and that's really what causes all of his problems for the rest of the film. This crook wants more money and Charles is put in a position where he has to give it to him. It may seem like I've given away too much but I haven't at all. Nothing is what it appears to be at the beginning. The crook, who initially comes off as just two-bit bully ends up being far more than that and Cassel does a great job portraying the nuances of the character. His best scene is when he manages to squirm his way into Charles' house to talk to his wife and daughter because if you didn't know better (which they don't) he'd  seem like a great guy.

There's a big twist that I didn't exactly see coming, but it holds up logically and I was kicking myself for not spotting it earlier. We believe all of this could happen and the movie never stretches credibility until the very end where there's a few too many far-fetched action scenes. Clive Owen owns this movie as someone who seems strong, but is believable as a regular guy in way over his head and while the casting of Aniston seems questionable at first, it fits given the eventual direction of the the story. You want to someone who can play average and ordinary and she's is as good a choice as any for that. Her part isn't as large as you think, but the role is huge in importance. If she wants a real movie career she has to do more movies like this, that challenge her in interesting, serious roles that go completely against type. Rapper RZA provides nice comic relief as Charles' co-worker and I really liked how the police detective (Giancarlo Esposito) kind of knows whats going on, but doesn't act like an obvious goof about it, popping in and out at the story's convenience. Derailed isn't the kind of thriller that leaves you thinking about much after it's over, but it's a realistic, well-made effort that makes sense and keeps you guessing.

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