Charles Schine has made a terrible mistake.
In an effort to find some small escape from his troubled, tragic life he has initiated an affair with Lucinda, an intoxicating stranger whom he met on the train during his usual hum-drum commute. At first it seems like the kind of forbidden release he craves, but everything begins to collapse around him when the two are caught in the act by the last person Charles expected.
On the evening that Lucinda and Charles decide to take their tryst to the final level, the low-budget hotel interlude is interrupted by a thief who takes advantage of the fact that they forgot to lock the door. After beating Charles into a stupor and brutally raping Lucinda right before his eyes, the thief makes off with the couple’s dignities and their wallets. Using the affair and the safety of their families, the thief continues to blackmail Charles for more and more money, driving him to increasingly desperate but futile measures to get his life back on track.
A smart and subtle psychological thriller, Derailed goes beyond the ordinary games of trying to keep you guessing what will happen next. I found myself forced to consider Charles’ choices, being disgusted at his chivalrous desperation but wondering if in a similar position I might not make the same decisions. Granted, the first choice would be obvious, avoiding the trouble by keeping your pants on and both eyes focused on the wife and child. Should one begin down that spiraling path though, how far would you go to make things right in the shadow of your mistake?
Vincent Cassel is magnificent as the movie’s main predator and Clive Owen makes for a very intriguing prey in his performance as Charles. As Lucinda, Jennifer Aniston continues to shake off the “Friends” aura with a remarkable dramatic performance of her own. The trio is guided skillfully through the film by Swedish director Mikael Håfström. Known better for their clocks and internationally coveted banking system, the Swiss now have a credit as exporter of fine filmmakers as well.
The story and script are nicely crafted as thriller material goes. Adapted from Joel Siegel’s novel, the story is wonderfully translated for the screen by Stuart Beattie. Yeah, I asked myself “who the heck is that” when I read it too. Not surprisingly, he’s the mind behind the screenplays and screenstories of Collateral and Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl. One good script deserves another and Beattie seems to have them in spades.
If I had to pin down Derailed’s biggest flaw, it lies within the merging of the dramatic and the suspenseful. Thrillers generally need a slick pace with the right balance of false lulls to hold the audience rapt. Derailed regularly interrupts the plot twists with smoothly transitioned sequences of rather weighty dramatic dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff, but it takes a toll trying to bounce back and forth between edge of your seat and edge of your sleeve.
Let me begin by saying that I have no idea why the disc is unrated. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t pass muster on an R-rating and I choose to believe that the Weinstein’s aren’t so desperate as to try and draw a crowd of viewers who hope to see some naked Jennifer Aniston. I could speculate about the laziness of the producers when it came to submitting the disc for review, but I won't. I don't really care.
There’s absolutely no reason not to watch every single moment of extra material on the Derailed DVD. It’s not so much that it’s compelling stuff but that there’s less than twenty minutes of it.
The deleted scenes are more like deleted chapters and comprise more than half of the bonus features length. At ten minutes running time they dive deeper into some of the supporting cast storylines, especially Charles’ wife and daughter. The choice to cut them was wise given that the movie is already overburdened with dramatic character development. Still, they’re very well acted scenes and deserve your attention.
Seven whopping minutes are dedicated to looking behind the scenes. It’s a whirlwind tour of sets and cast/crew interviews that leaves a lot to be desired. Most notable are the conversations with Xzibit and RZA, two of the film’s more curious supporting cast choices. They play your typical thuggish black characters and their interviews sound like your typical rap/hip-hop artists turned actors. Despite having those two in the cast, the DVD is mercifully devoid of any music video. I shudder to imagine Xzibit and RZA swingin’ their bling while cut shots showing post-rape scenes of Aniston’s character flash across the screen. Score one huge point for the disc.
The third and final bit of goodie is the film’s trailer. You might actually watch it once before viewing the film itself and then again after. It’s a really good trailer (i.e. it hooks you on the film without falsely advertising it or giving away too much of the story) and looks very different on opposite sides of the viewing experience.
In the light of this being the director’s first American film I was kind of hoping for some commentary. The disc doesn’t even have a Swedish language track. You can however listen to it in French but the subtitles are only available in English or Spanish so deaf French folks and blind Spaniards are just plain out of luck.