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FIlm review *1/2: Owen and Aniston ...Derailed... by Adultery

Lack of Realism Brings Dull Thriller to a Halt

By Yong-Yi Zhu


Directed by Mikael Hafstrom

Written by Stuart Beattie

Based on the novel by James Siegel

Starring Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel

Rated R

Opens Friday, Nov. 11

One easy message to take away from “Derailed” is the following: don’t ever cheat on your wife or your life will fall apart. Despite the simplistic summary, the plot of the movie is a bit more complex. Clive Owen is Charles Shine, a business executive with a troubled family. His daughter, Amy (Addison Timlin), has Type 1 diabetes. She not only needs plenty of medicine, but she also a new kidney. His wife, Deanna (Melissa George), is a school teacher and does not earn enough money to support the family to the same degree that Charles can. He must therefore keep his savings to pay for his daughter’s medical bills.

One day, when Shine misses his usual train to work, he bumps into Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston), another married investment banking executive, with a small daughter. She pays for his train ticket because he forgot to get cash before the train ride, and Shine feels indebted to her. He conjures up reasons to call her and to have lunch with her. Eventually, he decides to go out with Lucinda at night, making up a phony excuse to his wife. The two end up at a decrepit hotel after dinner where they are both about to commit adultery when a stranger named Philippe Laroche (Vincent Cassel) barges in with a gun.

He robs them, violently beats up Shine and brutally rapes Harris. Of course Shine and Harris cannot tell anyone about this, because of their adulterous act, and Laroche uses this to his advantage.

From there, the movie takes a twisted turn for the worse as Shine is forced to pay money to Laroche in order to keep him away from his family. Shine is stuck between paying off Laroche and neglecting his daughter’s medical bills, or contending with this dangerous character.

The movie is incredibly suspenseful due to the feeling that Laroche is everywhere and is willing to do anything to get money from Shine. Often times, it is also painful because Shine appears to make every bad decision possible. The more he caves in to the demands of Laroche while not telling anyone about his desperate situation, the more he ignores the authorities and the people who can really help him. Clive Owen is great at being constantly pained. His subtle facial expressions and his commanding demeanor make him the perfect victim of Laroche. You know that Shine understands everything he is doing is wrong, so you have to empathize no matter how stupid he may appear to be.

Cassel is perfect as the tormentor. The two pair up to make you really believe in the torrid relationship between the evil villain and the helpless protagonist. Jennifer Aniston, though, is a weak link in the acting. She is simply not convincing as the woman attracted to Owen. Instead, she is unemotional and aloof. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have an affair with her.

Perhaps Aniston’s poor acting is because of the lack of chemistry between her and Owen. Their relationship appears forced, and they drain energy from each other when both are on screen. There is a shot of the two having a conversation on a train in which you cannot imagine what the two find desirable in each another. The result is a movie that is slow to engage and tough to believe.