Plot of ‘Derailed’ off track, though Aniston, Owen prevail

Andrew Hampp

“How you doin’?” Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen are up to no good in Derailed.

Credit: Ben Breier



Starring Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George, Xzibit, Rza, Giancarlo Esposito

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom

Released by The Weinstein Co.

Stater rating (out of four): **1/2

There’s an unfortunate stigma in Hollywood that’s plagued some of filmdom’s biggest leading ladies – good girls should not play bad girls.

This stereotype has helped actresses like Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) and Sandra Bullock (Crash) in playing edgier women outside of their cookie-cutter characteristics, but it also has hurt others like Keira Knightley (in Domino), and especially Meg Ryan, who has yet to recover from her racy role in 2003’s In the Cut.

Jennifer Aniston is likely to catch some flak for her darker part as Lucinda Harris in the new thriller Derailed. While taking the morning train to work one day, she offers to buy a ticket for Charles Schine (Clive Owen), a commercial writer who’s short on cash.

After their chance train encounter, the couple meets several times over the next few days to carry on an increasingly heated flirtation. Although they’re both married with children, Lucinda and Charles nonetheless let their mutual attraction escalate into a hotel liaison that ends in violence.

Just as the pair start to consummate their adultery, a strange man with a gun (French actor Vincent Cassel, not even attempting to disguise his accent) barges in on the hotel room, pistol whips Charles and begins to rape Lucinda.

While this scene may sound shocking, it’s actually quite heavy-handed in its imagery and cinematography, cutting back and forth between shots of an anguished Aniston and a bloodied Owen. The filmmakers obviously want the audience to sympathize with Owen and Aniston, despite the fact that this plot twist is only one of many more to come.

Derailed unfolds like many American thrillers do, complete with threats to the main character’s family (Charles’ daughter suffers from diabetes and needs expensive medication to keep her kidneys intact) and several creepy phone calls from the villain. There’s even a pesky detective (Giancarlo Esposito) who asks a few too many questions for Charles’ liking.

The film ultimately leads up to a “surprise” ending that any viewer with a sharp eye will see coming at least a half-hour before it’s revealed. The actors, at least, do an admirable job in making us believe in their out-of-character roles.

Owen, best known for playing a role more like Aniston’s homewrecker, is utterly convincing and endearing as the film’s anti-hero. And Aniston more than sells her portrayal of the mysterious Lucinda, making a solid transition into edgier acting.

Ultimately, Derailed is a standard thriller that takes riskier forays into darker, more European territory, courtesy of Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom, making his English language debut here.

The film may steer in a few obvious directions, but Owen and Aniston keep things on track in the acting department.

Contact features editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].