|Off the rails|
by Spencer Roberton
Aniston’s bad luck continues
The tagline on the poster for the film Derailed reads “They never saw it coming.” Combing this intriguing catchphrase with a picture of a very serious looking Clive Owen, I entered the theater thinking the ‘it’ must mean invisible dinosaurs and that the movie was about how hard it is to hunt those dinosaurs when you can’t see them. I was wrong. After having actually watched this movie, I think a more accurate tagline would be “Please, stay away from this movie. There are no dinosaurs here (not even invisible ones), just predictable plot twists and boring clichés.” Derailed not only runs right off the tracks, but I even doubt it was on them to begin with (pun so very much intended).
Starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, Derailed takes inspiration from one of the most common human vices, dishonesty. With this as a starting point, the film creates a story of a common, everyday man (Owen) who, in an attempt to add a bit of excitement to his life, enters into an extramarital affair with a woman (Aniston) he meets one day on a train. As with any thriller, things go from bad to worse which further reinforces the age-old advice of “never talk to strangers or, if you must talk to them, please don’t end up picking the seediest hotel you can find to have your affair in.” Now, if Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that nothing good ever happens in seedy, rundown hotels, and I’m glad to say this movie maintains that position, which, frankly is a weight off my shoulders primarily because I tend to be suspicious of originality and distrust innovation.
Derailed was written by Stuart Beattie, who is also responsible for Collateral, another film examining an ordinary man under extraordinary pressure. Collateral, however, had the benefit of being directed by Michael Mann, and for anyone who has ever wondered how much impact a director can have on a movie, look no further than these two films.
Both share similar ideas, yet, their execution could not be more different. Instead of relying on cheap plot devices that seem to originate more out of a need to advance the story rather than logical character development, Collateral focuses on the characters and lets everything else build from there. What we end up with is one movie that fuses together all the elements of filmmaking into one of the best examples of a modern thriller and another movie that left me wondering how many steps it was from my seat to the washrooms (answer: 47).
Derailed does have one thing going for it: Clive Owen. He excels at playing characters forced to the edge of existence, whether it is emotional desperation (as in Closer) or physical exhaustion (Bent).
Gradually, Owen is fulfilling his promise as one of the most dependable leading actors working today. Yet, even with his presence, Derailed never manages to feel like anything more than a bad episode of Columbo.