Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Triangle (2009)

"Is this normal?" A man asks.
All I want to answer is, "No, it's CGI."

Triangle is a moody, melancholic, and somewhat imaginative "horror" movie directed by Christopher Smith and starring Melissa George. It was made by and in the UK and Australia with mainly Australian actors, but takes place in Florida for some reason with every one of the actors faking an American accent, probably because of the allusion to the Bermuda Triangle, which is not what this movie is about. Instead, the titular Triangle is the sailing ship the characters start the movie on.

Melissa George, the big name in this flick, plays Jess, a single mother with a special needs son. Throughout the film, but especially in the beginning of it, she seems out of it, confused, and a little lost as well. I'm not sure if it was the character that was out of her element or the actress. I'm kind of sorry for saying this, but Melissa George is not a powerhouse actress in this film. While I've seen her play some decent roles (most notably in 30 Days of Night) she doesn't seem quite ready for the emotional performance that this movie really required. She has a mighty vacant expression on her face for most of this film, with her mouth slightly agape, like it's stuck in constant surprise. I know that's a bit unfair, but it kept getting to me as the movie progressed.

The being said, this is a whale of a movie plot. Despite the limited characterizations and dialogue, the plot is incredibly complex... although equally incredibly predictable. It's kind of the nature of a plot like this to be predictable, but I seriously wish I hadn't guessed most of the movie in the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. It made a large portion of this movie quite boring. The only thing I couldn't have even anticipated was how Jess was going to act and react rather than what was going to happen, since that seemed set in stone. And her reactions, which should have been the most interesting part of the movie, became confusing and badly put together and thought out- more frustrating for the viewer than interesting.

The problem is that I have no idea why everything was set in stone and why Jess couldn't have changed stuff at any time she wanted to. This becomes a huge problem towards the end of the movie, but I'm digressing a bit. If you know nothing about this movie you are probably lost, and I don't blame you. If you have watched this movie you may be lost as well, but no worries! It's fairly easy to understand once you realize that time travel plots and being stuck in a time loop is utterly idiotic and rarely works well in any fictional medium.

Okay, maybe not ENTIRELY idiotic, but I cannot stand movies that attempt these types of plots. Time travel and time loops are complicated and never seem to work in movies or stories in general, often falling flat long before they become compelling. I would have shut this movie off in an instant if it had not shaken anything up at all or performed intelligent moves effectively. But it did. No, it didn't do it amazingly every single time. I still have a ton of questions lingering in my mind, but I thought it told the plot satisfactorily.

So, yes, this movie is all about a time loop. It's basically your standard Sisyphus plot. They even mention it in the movie proper. It's so apparent and so telegraphed that it felt like the movie were trying to hammer it into my head. It did back off a bit eventually, and I have to thank the director for that at least. While I did appreciate some of the more intelligent designs in the plot throughout the movie, I found for the most part that the movie lacked surprise, which is a leading force when it comes to actual HORROR movies.

Anyway, the movie starts out at Jess's home. She has a special needs son and is cleaning up some paint he spilled on the floor. She hears the doorbell, goes to get it, and finds nobody there. She asks her neighbor if he saw anyone, and of course he didn't see anyone. She goes to tidy up and then we meet up with the other characters of the film. Greg is on his sailing ship, getting it ready to take some of his friends out for a nice and relaxing cruise. Victor, a young friend of Greg, is staying with him and helping him with the boat. Greg has two married friends coming along specially for the ride as well as a friend they brought along to hook him up with. Jess then makes an appearance as well, looking disheveled and awful, seeming like she needs a good sleep. Greg had invited her along, and seems particularly protective of her.

So, they go sailing, start having a good time... and THEN (because of course there's an "and then") the wind dies, a CGI storm hits, capsizes the boat, the friend of the couple is lost, and a large cruise ship from the 1930s rolls past them looking to help. Or so they think. They see a figure on board, the ship seems to let them on board, and then there's nobody there to greet them. They start looking all over the ship for other people, but all they find is Jess annoyingly saying that she thinks she's been here before. Some odd things start to happen, including Jess's keys suddenly dropping at a random place on the ship, and a figure seeming to follow them.

Jess eventually gets upset with Greg because he's being realistic and is trying to reason with her, so she runs off, and is attacked by a seriously wounded Victor who tries to choke her to death. Now, this is the kind of movie that has characters in it that have never seen a horror film before. They had split up before this all happened, so being on a creepy empty ship and splitting up is obviously the best course of action. Anyway, Jess runs back to find the others only to find Greg shot dead, claiming that she killed him, and the couple over him, blaming her for the death even as they are shot to death by a mysterious figure with a sack over its head. The masked figure continues to shoot at Jess even as she tries to escape, leading to one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a horror movie in a while, where the masked gunperson runs out of bullets and throws the gun at her. And it hits her too! I mean, I was laughing to myself even as the scene went on because it was absolutely ridiculous. It was also easily the best moment (or two- ha ha ha time travel ha ha) in the film.

So, Jess fights the gunperson with a fire-axe, and eventually backs the masked person off the ship while the masked person whispers something unintelligible to her. We think the movie must be done at this point- but it's only just started. Jess backs into the captain's quarters or the bridge or something, plays some music and hears some cries coming from the open ocean. Oh no! It's the capsized Triangle with the five characters again calling out for help from the cruise ship. And we have officially entered the plot of this movie.

It's all a loop on the cruise ship that ends when all the characters (seemingly save Jess) die. When they all die, the loop starts all over again. So, Jess starts off by doing exactly what previous versions of her had done before, jotting down a note, losing her locket, grabbing a gun... but then decides she wants to break the pattern. She finds Victor, hoping to warn him, but that just spooks him because she sounds like she's insane. She grievously wounds him completely by accident (which it seems every Jess seems to do), then changes what happened earlier in the time loop by making certain Victor didn't attack her earlier self. She confronts that earlier self, seems to think about killing her, then lets her run away. Again, she seems like she's trying to break the loop and keep everybody alive. Remember this for later.

The problem is that the masked person (who is also Jess, but a later version of her) is killing off the other characters whenever she can. So, this "good" Jess is trying to save them, and the masked "bad" one is trying to kill them. This goes on for a little while and several loops, every time having the characters die. She even sees herself die at least once, I believe. She sees a mass of Sallies (the female of the couple) and where they all died, and kind of realizes that this has been going on much longer than she's been here.

Jess, who had been trying to save the others, suddenly doesn't want to do that anymore. I mean, she seriously just changes her mind without any character development saying why. She actively starts hunting the other characters down with the sack on her head, shooting them whenever she can. Oh my God how stupid can Jess be? She goes and decides to do all the things it was decided that she would do by the loop or fate or whatnot, but SHE KNOWS HOW THAT'S GOING TO TURN OUT, with earlier Jess making certain that the final Jess jumps overboard. There is an easy solution here she hadn't thought of: why not just wait out on the landing dock, let the other Jess kill all of the others, then warn the Triangle when it gets close? Why does she start thinking it's a good idea to murder all the others? Why does she do it exactly like the earlier version of her saw her do it? She could have changed anything and everything, but she knew how it would turn out. Why not change what is going to happen rather than living it? And why be surprised when it happens the way she KNEW it was going to happen if she followed that route?

I can't get over this. I really can't. Her character changes in a single second from being a decent person trying to save the others (even if she doesn't) to being a murderer with a sack on her head for the simple reason that she wants to save them by killing them. Look, lady, there are easier ways to go about doing this than murdering them, okay? I don't like the jump of personality change here. I don't think it works, and it bothered me a ton. I don't like her justifications, and I especially don't like how she doesn't act like a person would. Look, if I find myself in some kind of weird loop and then see I can change some things sometimes, I'm going to make certain I don't do anything that I saw some masked moron do earlier. I am especially not going to put on said mask and shoot people. I mean, seriously.... damn it. This was too frustrating for me.

Anyway, I guess the rest of the movie happens after that. Jess, in a mask, jumps off the ship, hits the water, wakes up on a beach and goes home. At this point I'm wondering why the movie is still going. In my mind it should be over. But no, Jess goes home and we see that she's gone back in time, it seems, to watch herself scream and beat her special needs child. Jess decides she doesn't like the old her very much, plays ding-dong ditch with herself, grabs a hammer, and beats the everloving crud out of the earlier version of herself, killing her. The son panics, understandably, and she consoles him by saying it was all a terrible nightmare. She packs her body into the trunk of the car and gets ready to leave Florida. On her way she hits a seagull which causes her son to freak out, and we see the ultimate TWIST of the movie. There are a ton of dead seagulls which it seems like previous versions of herself had thrown over the cliff as well. She is still in the loop! She continues driving for a few seconds, but she is totally not watching the road... AND ACCIDENT.

Her son dies, and the earlier Jess is also there dead. There's a very obvious nod to the idea that she's in a loop of hell, and really died in a car accident, but she doesn't seem to think about it much, instead talking to a random creepy taxi driver. This taxi driver out of nowhere decides to drive her away from that place, and she accepts, saying she'll go to the harbor to meet Greg and the rest. And she does. And the loop starts all over again, although we have no idea how much she remembers now or how much she remembered in the first place at all.

So, one other thing I have to mention is that in the cruise ship there seemed to be a much later version of Jess for several minutes. She killed Downey (the male member of the couple) and seemed to be doing all of what she was doing to save her son, even citing that she loves her son as the reason the other have to die. This seems to be the final version of Jess we see, the one who remembers that her son died because of her... and she's still looping.

Okay, while I think that all sounds very complex, it's actually pretty simple to follow for the most part. It is a movie that requires paying a bit of attention, but most of the film is explicitly stated in dialogue. Jess is in a loop, more than likely because she died. The others may or may not exist, but that doesn't even matter. Jess is a bad mother and feels guilty about it. She dies in a car accident and cannot accept that she and her son are dead, which creates the loop in the first place. That's the more plausible explanation, and I hate movies that do that. The other explanation is that the cruise ship is a magical time dimensional traveling cruise ship from the 1930s that allows her and the others to loop constantly through time ad infinitum because she's too stupid to break the loop or convince the others that what she's saying isn't crazy. And that isn't a much better plot, is it?

Anyway, this is a really different movie. I appreciate how it's different. I really do. I like the plot, but it's not very original no matter what you think. Look at Stay, Jacob's Ladder, The Dark, or a ton of others movies I'm simply not thinking about right now. While the loop may not be done in every movie, the premise is one that is wholly predictable, and the plot is way to easy to figure out. Most of the characters are either unlikable or completely flat, and the one that seems to show any personality, Jess, simply does confusing and nonsensical things throughout the film. The acting is nothing special, with Melissa George probably putting out the best performance out of everyone even if it is mediocre. The actors are somewhat believable, but... again... it's hard to feel anything for them throughout the movie. They just don't have enough character for me to go "Oh no! I don't want him/her to die!"

As for being a horror movie... No. No, this movie is in no way scary. It may be kind of interesting and gory, but it is in no way horrific or terrifying. Calling this a horror movie is like calling spaghetti thrown onto the ceiling psychological terror. It's simply not.

I also want to say that, yes movie, I saw what you did with the references to The Shining. Don't think I didn't see the Room 237 there. I am a big Stephen King junkie. Do you think I would miss obvious references like that? Or the blood on the mirror? Or the ax? I mean, I don't even like Kubrick's The Shining, but the blatant references just made me roll my eyes. You should never make me remember a better movie while I'm watching your movie. And as I said, I don't even like The Shining very much, but it is a much better movie than this, and I shouldn't have been thinking how much more I wanted to see that than this.

Now, this movie isn't garbage. Nor is it bad. It's a mediocre plot mixed with some pretty decent time travel looping kind of stuff that makes it kind of interesting and different. The first half of the movie is not very fun to watch, but once the true plot comes out, it's a much easier movie to stomach. While I never wholly bought the movie, and found myself more frustrated than happy with it, I will say that it was a decent enough flick. I came away feeling like it was pretty average and kind of forgettable, but not bad exactly. While that's no recommendation, I can't say to avoid it fully either since there are some decent things here even if it's frustrating and nonsensical at times. If the plot sounds interesting or you think Melissa George is a great actress or great looking, maybe check it out with the warning that there are much better movies out there. Barring that, it is just not a good enough movie for me to wholeheartedly thrown my support behind.


  1. Hmmm. I think the movie was a little more complex and interesting than you suggest. Perhaps you missed the psychological and spiritual story at the heart of this. Jess is in hell and probably psychotic. It's not a time-loop, as much as it's a movie about an abusive mom who is in hell - whether real or psychological. Actually, the other characters are just there to underscore her dilemma and don't require any development. In fact, she may have made them up because she has schizophrenia brought on by abuse she has suffered. She continues the loop by abusing her son too. I like that everything is not answered. There are so many ways to go with this. There are so many triangles to see and all are not obvious. Jess is the Triangle of abuse. That is, she is good, bad and indifferent. Her life is in turmoil and you don't know whether she's dead, alive or psychotic. I love this movie. I hope people don't over-simplify it and miss it's meaning.

    1. That's the thing about a movie like this, you can interpret it any way you want to. I found it interesting, certainly, but a little sillier than I think you did, Anon. While there are moments of interest, I didn't quite see the overall movie as anything all that special myself. I barely remember most of it beyond the ending really.

      I did mention (flippantly because I was annoyed at the movie) that she is probably dead and looping because she's probably in hell or whatever. I don't like that explanation myself because it makes the entire plot inconsequential. It makes the entire plot just another movie about a character who seems alive who is just in some sort of afterlife. She was dead all along. And to me it takes away the heavy hitting nature that the movie seems like it's trying to make. It makes everything her character does preordained, and it makes her unable to change anything at all. I accept that it is the most plausible explanation for the movie. I simple don't like it all that much and decided to look at it in a more literal way so that I could maximize my own enjoyment of the movie.

      I want to accept her as alive and in her own personal hell because it's simply easier for me to accept than just another movie with a main character who is dead all along with flat characters along for the ride.

      I think you're jumping to a ton of conclusions that the movie doesn't necessarily mention though. You're reading between the lines in a way I simply can't in a movie like this which is ambiguous by its very nature. It wants you to fill in holes because it can't do so itself. So, you're working for the movie, writing your own explanations where the movie clearly offers none. I'm simply taking it at face value, showing where those holes are and leaving it up to others how too interpret it since I don't like what conclusions I drew from it.

      I'm glad you loved it though and that you found so much meaning in it! I simply saw the same movie and found alternate ways of looking at it than you. Which can be good or bad depending on where a person is looking at it from. I still find it mediocre, but I'm not against people enjoying it or watching it to figure out how they feel about it themselves.

  2. thank you...I saw "stay", and understanding this movie was easier than "triangle" for me! I think this movie is just chaos!

    1. Chaos is a good descriptor for Triangle. Stay is a much better movie for me. And it actual has a meaningful kind of plot. This movie just did not do anything for me. Its confusing nature waylaid its plot and characters.

  3. The subtext of the movie could be about a woman who is trapped in a cycle of abuse with her autistic child, feels guilty about it and wants to stop it, (the ocean liner is empty, vacant, much like an autistic) but the surface plot regarding the loop has to do with refusing to keep her promise with death I thought. The movie tells you a few times the story of Sisyphus who was doomed for his failure to keep his promise to Death. I took the cab driver to be death and to whom she promises she'll be back. But we see that she never does go back, and instead tries to use the loop to save her son which is futile and which always leads back to the cab driver. The loop can only be stopped if she accepts her death and her son's.

    I thought her killing herself in the house was strange and that perhaps she knew she had killed her son before and that we just hadn't seen that part of the loop before.

    Movies like these tend to hurt one's head in terms of the details.

    1. I agree with you on that last point. But I find it endlessly fascinating how many people seem to be searching for meaning in this movie. I'm sure there is a meaning too- but meaning isn't synonymous with sense- nor does it offer the answers readily or easily.

      Interpretation is the name of the game. And I do like hearing people's thoughts on that, and I certainly appreciate the post!

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    5. oah Mr anonymous, that's actually a really sensible theoretical way of puttn it. The promise she made to the weird cab guy actually ties in with the (then meaningless, I thot) conversation they had by that painting I have no reference for!

      woah man, smart.......but dat doesn't dilute the fact that the movie features a lot of mediocre clichés that question the writing cognitively in lethal doses.

      Oh and for me, the storyline wasn't complex at all (seriously), I was eating while I watched it nd didn't once pause the movie like until the tail end when I thot "how could d current jess still be alive when the current jess just died in front of me...I mean, are we (the camera) also looped?"... U know. But in terms of plot complexity it was kinda mehish and totally predictable half way in, and the plot-holes sir were not keys to devicing possible theories they were just bad writing...I felt like the writer bit off a whole more than he could chew (and ended up choking on first bite)

      Yeah so, that's my opinion, and pardon my lateness to this. Nd sorry for deletin my reply thrice...Im on my android, so like, no edit. [This is me being super polite - 😇#angelface]

  4. Caution -SPOILERS!!

    I agree it can be interpreted many ways. Mine: she is looping through the stages of Grief. All at the instance of her possible death.

    She denies her son is dead at the beginning (though we don't know this until later). When she remembers her son while on the boat she moves to anger. The taxi driver says the boy is beyond saving, implying she is not. She moves to bargaining by trying to find a way out of the loop that ends differently- with her son alive.

    The bulk of time in the movie is spent attempting to save her son, but she cannot. The taxi driver tells her this, but she's in denial at that point. She tries because of her guilt (as was pounded into us by the director). As she gains more perspective from seeing her self, she hates herself. I think this is why she so readily chooses violence (the 'kill them all' approach also confused me at first: why not just confront her other self and boat mates upon arrival? But she sometimes appears to contemplate an interruptive choice other than violence! So there may be hope).

    Ultimately we are left without witnessing her transition to the depression/acceptance phases. To do this she must move beyond hating herself, and must forgive. She must accept her son's death and save herself. If she can do this..... well, maybe she'll move out of purgatory in death, or wake up after the car accident- alive.

    1. Those are absolutely valid points and interpretations. I think some of it gives the movie a bit too much credit, but that's kind of essentially what seems to be going on.

  5. We see on the boat a Jess that knows her son died. If that Jess knows that, then why would that Jess go back and drive her son again which leads to his death and the recurrence of the loop. That makes no sense to me so maybe someone can explain that.


    1. Yeah, that was something that bothered me too. I even mentioned it in the review briefly. I assume she is the most recent Jess (if that makes sense). She can't get out of the loop presumably because she is dead or in hell/purgatory. So, she seemingly cannot stop the loop even when she knows what's going on. It's as if she's being forced to do it all over again.

      That explanation doesn't explain it perfectly, but I kind of assume that we (as the audience) are not given the entire picture of information or answers. A lot of this movie is about interpretation.and what you want to see in the plot yourself. At least that's what I think.

    2. I think Jess forgets about everything, during her dream in the Triangle. We see that the Jess who wakes up is less depressed. All she has is some Dejavus from this point on.

  6. Your all forgetting one thing. Jess puts her deadself in a duffle bag and puts it in the boot of her car. Jess is then in a car crash. Jess is lying dead on the road with the summer floral dress on and the Jess who is alive is looking at the accident, has the jeans and white top on and was driving. The dead Jess on the road is the one in the duffle bag as its right next to her with all the clothes strewn out. I have read so many expanations on this movie but no one ever seems to take into account that there is a dead Jess in the boot so wouldnt the people standing round find it strange that there are 2 identical dead jesses?

  7. Replies
    1. So that means she doesn't die over and over again but just once and that too we don't see it in the movie???

  8. "Triangle" definitely does refer to the Bermuda Triangle *and* of course the vessel Triangle. The obvious explanation of this movie's basic plot is that the ship does in fact sail into the Bermuda Triangle, where the Aeolus is hanging out after it disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle 80 years or so prior. Because the Bermuda Triangle is a mythic and paradoxical place where the laws of time and space somehow distort in all kinds of odd ways, it's no surprise that when boats somehow enter into its alternate universe, strange things start to happen. Where's the crew of the Aeolus? Who knows. That's one of the completely unsolved mysteries of the film. Maybe that's the story for another movie. But in the story of the Triangle's journey into the Bermuda Triangle, I think of it as a passageway to Hell, or at best, purgatory (yes, the Sisyphus thing). It makes me think of Event Horizon, Supernova, The Shining, Solaris, Interstellar, and other similar stories where the main characters travel into a particular place which represents the edge of human understanding, or a portal into a kind of Hell of one sort or another, an alternate universe...via black holes (Event Horizon), Wormholes (2001), haunted hotels (The Shining), mysterious planets (Solaris), oh and how about the Bermuda Triangle...? Also worth noting is the culturally psychological nature of Hell as an idea. Sure it's nasty to think of Hell as a place more like Dante's Inferno, one of unthinkable and unending physical torture, human beings also like to analyze it in psychological ways. In Triangle, the version of Hell we look at is the main character's personal Hell, which relates to being caught in a Sisyphean loop where she is forced to kill her friends and her son, over and over, ad infinitum. I've had psychotic episodes where I experienced the same sense of persistent and chronic Deja Vu characteristic of being trapped inside a looping alternate universe, and it was terrifying indeed. Along these lines, I think the film is also to some degree about mental illness and the convoluted plots which schizophrenic and delusional people sometimes trick themselves into believing about their life situation.

    The mechanics of the film (which I thought were really well-done) borrow from other time-paradoxic films (Looper, Memento, 12 Monkeys), and otherworldy dream-logic movies (Mulholland Drive, Last Year at Marienbad, Inception, Perfect Blue). I love this movie and have watched it a few times now. Once I saw the pattern from relatively early on, it became very trippy and fun to watch how it could play out.

    1. Man I just think u're great!.....maybe not physically but real brainally - I've also been picturing a lady her early 50s, 52 maybe?...lemme know)

    2. Man I just think u're great!.....maybe not physically but real brainally - I've also been picturing a lady her early 50s, 52 maybe?...lemme know)