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by Willie Waffle

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Derailed is one of the biggest surprises of the year as The Weinstein Company gets off to an auspicious beginning with one of its first major releases. It's also a movie with an unintentional moral lesson - if you decide to fool around on your wife, very very very very very bad things will happen, which is a great way to get every woman in America into the theater.

Clive Owen stars as Charles an advertising executive in Chicago dealing with plenty of difficulties in life. His daughter, Amy (Addison Timlin), is suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, and needs an experimental medication to help her live a somewhat normal life. His marriage to Deanna (Melissa George) is straining under the weight of scrimping and saving to buy the medicine and taking care of Amy. Adding to the misery, Charles just lost a major account, and the client thoroughly embarrassed him in front of his boss.

One day, while riding the train, Charles meets Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston) and the two strike up a relationship rushing towards adultery (I ride the darn train every single day and I never meet someone who looks like Jennifer Aniston who is willing to talk to me. I guess it would help if I looked like Clive Owen). When they decide to consummate the relationship, a horrible incident threatens everything Charles and Lucinda hold dear including spouses, marriages, daughters, jobs and lives.

What have Charles and Lucinda gotten themselves into? Can Charles figure out a way to hide it all from his wife?

Derailed is nothing like what I expected, and director Mikael Hafstrom, along with writer Stuart Beattie (based on the novel by James Siegel), does a magnificent job of keeping the mystery hard to crack as the movie unfolds. Throughout Derailed, I found myself suspecting what might be coming next and trying to unravel the story, but Hafstrom and company lead you down new paths as the situation becomes more and more dangerous and complex without any ridiculous, unfair red herrings mucking up the works. You just know something is going on, and trying to solve it is half the fun.

The dialogue is nothing to write home about, but the plot and its various twists keep the audience in suspense. In a sense, Hafstrom and Beattie have made Derailed into a morality tale with a twist, which makes it all the more compelling for the audience as we relate to Charles and Lucinda's predicament, wish they would take one of the several opportunities presented to come clean and hope everything will work out in the end, after they have more than paid the penance for an affair. Owen and Aniston do a good job evoking this sympathy from the audience, even if they somewhat brought it on themselves, but Owen is better than his co-star.

While Owen is solid throughout Derailed in all of his scenes, Aniston's performance is more uneven. She excels in some scenes, such as the critical moments in the motel room as Lucinda and Charles decide to take a swim in the pool of adultery, but seems almost too nice to carry out the earlier scenes where the two potential lovers flirt. Aniston is too stiff throughout those moments of Derailed, but seems to find her groove as Lucinda becomes more and more frightened by the situation. Sadly, Hafstrom and Beattie don't give her one last chance at shocking us in her final scene, which could have been an opportunity to leave us with more respect for her and the movie. Instead, it seems to be a bit of a cop out for Lucinda, but Aniston carries it off well.

Derailed is a stronger than average mystery thriller sure to satisfy most ticket buyers.

3 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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