This movie sets out for intense, psychological thriller but ends up in an unrealistic dead-end thanks to misguided casting, implausible character development and a whole lot of bad behavior on the part of nearly everyone onscreen. “Derailed” indeed. Stuck on the same train as this lot, many audience members might prefer to walk.
Like the book, the movie follows Charles Christopher Schine (Clive Owen), who is just trying to be a nice guy. He is numb with loneliness as he goes from his rocky marriage to hated advertising job, unable to change tracks while his daughter, Amy (Addison Timlin) is ill and in need of expensive trial drugs. The spark between Charles and his wife (Melissa George) is smothered under the weight of worry for Amy and lack of communication, all of which leaves our protagonist ripe to make some very, very bad decisions.
An attractive leg on his morning train ride takes hold of Charles’ attention and desire. The leg belongs to finance expert Lucinda (a spectacularly miscast Jennifer Aniston), who is like him in sticking with her loveless marriage for the sake of a daughter but unlike him has verve and self-confidence to spare. As they edge towards an adulterous tryst, a robber/rapist Philippe Larouche (Vincent Cassel) hijacks the ride and in a string of physical and psychological attacks exploits Charles’ guilt and desire to please for blackmail. Will our hero save the lady and save the day? By the end of the movie, viewers might not care – idly wishing for a different hero, lady and day, preferably one that did not feature “Derailed”.
The redeeming features of the movie include some interesting scenes and insights, mostly stemming from Charles’ friendship with Winston (RZA), which in a platonic sense is a warmer, more intimate relationship than the one Lucinda offers. The twists and turns of the blackmailer’s con will offer some surprises for the less-jaded travelers but the epilogue will be the last stop for any passengers who managed to suspend disbelief through this uneven journey. The least credible turn of the movie is Charles’ jerky character development. Where the book might have explored this area better, here it runs out of steam.
Parents should be aware that this violent movie and its near-constant threats -– physical and psychological -— render it inappropriate for younger viewers or sensitive audience members of any age. Characters are killed, bloodily beaten, threatened, blackmailed, recklessly endangered and demeaned. There is an implicit rape, the threat of sexual attacks against a young girl, and the theme of adultery. All characters act in self-serving ways and stretch the limits of empathy.
Families may wish to discuss what makes a character sympathetic or not and why they side with Charles in his struggles. What would you have done differently?
Families who wish to see the actors here shine in other movies, might wish to see Greenfingers, which also starts and ends in prison but allows Clive Owen to show humor and timing or Croupier (mature themes), which first brought him to the attention of American audiences. Jennifer Aniston’s flat and distant dramatic persona works much better in the depressing The Good Girl and The Object of My Affection (mature themes), but true fans might stick with Picture Perfect or old episodes of Friends.
Thanks to guest critic AME.