“Triangle” is a supernatural thriller, and follows Jess (Melissa George), a single mother of a disabled son, who accepts an invitation to go sailing with a friend and his other friends. After running into trouble at sea, they come across a huge steam ship and board it, only to find it (apparently) deserted. Characters are being killed, and she is being blamed, though she knows she didn’t do it.
Spoilers will follow, as I find it impossible to discuss this film without them.
I enjoyed this film on several levels. Firstly it maintains a very suspenseful atmosphere. From the moment Jess arrives at the docks the audience will be starting to ask questions. Where is her son? What was the big bag she was seen putting into her boot? It was big enough for a long absence, but she’s only going sailing for a day and does not have it with her. Why does she seem so distant and preoccupied, to the point where others comment on her demeanour? And the questions only mount as the film progresses.
The name of the yacht is Triangle, an allusion to the Bermuda Triangle which would be where they are sailing, thought that is not mentioned in the film. I think this was a wise decision as the Bermuda Triangle ‘mystery’ has been very thoroughly debunked and mentioning it would not have added to the film in any way. The name of the mystery ship they board is ‘Aeolus’. Onboard they find a picture of the ship on a wall, with an explanation of the name from Greek mythology. The characters, after talking about Aeolus, god of the winds, go on to say his son Sisyphus was condemned to role a boulder up a hill that would roll back down every time it reached the top. Sisyphus was cursed by the gods to do this for all eternity, for several crimes including cheating death. While this is an obvious allusion to the experiences of the main character, Sisyphus was the son of Aeolus but not the Aeolus who was god of the winds, so it was not entirely accurate.
During the events of the film, Jess slowly discovers that the accusations levelled against her are true, in a sense, as the other characters are killed by a future version of her. She has had a bad feeling about the ship and a feeling of deja vu – this is because she in fact has been there before, repeatedly, as she understands when she finds multiple versions of her lockets dropped through a grate, multiple corpses of one of the women, and sees herself arriving again after she has been on the ship for a while. Melissa George is excellent in this role – the character goes through a complex development throughout the film and George expresses this beautifully. Her stress and distraction keeps her distanced from the other characters. She is essentially an outsider with no ties to any of the other characters except for Greg, the owner of the yacht, and we are given the impression she doesn’t know him all that well. She is not the heroine we are used to – she is not particularly friendly and personable, and it is hard to warm to her. To me it made it all the more gripping that this character who has obviously been doing it tough for some time tries to deal with an incomprehensibly frightening situation as best she can, though she does not always make the best choices. She’s not a nice person, we learn, and that makes her interesting.
The director Christopher Smith creates an atmosphere of tension in the way he uses the camera. When the characters are first walking through the halls they are filmed as if they are being watched which, we learn, they are. The corridors are all very similar, and the camera is used to give the sense that they are traversing the same corridors over and over, alluding to the fact that essentially they have been doing so and will continue to do so indefinitely. Jess’ mounting horror and desperation as the events unfold are also enhanced by this use of the camera, zooming around corners and up stairs so the audience hardly knows which version of Jess we are watching.
While I find this movie very exciting while viewing, my problem with it is that I cannot reconcile everything that occurs into a coherent narrative. In short, this plot has a great many holes.
The end is the beginning – she’s gone back in time when she is washed ashore, and after her experiences has resolved to be a better mother to her son who she does love. So she kills her past abusive self and takes her place, reassuring her young son that he’s just had a bad dream. This is time travel error number one – killing her past self should make her disappear, shouldn’t it?
She crashes the car, killing her son. The body of other her is now out of the bag and lying next to the car, as she watches from a short distance away, apparently unscathed and unobserved. So, is this how things originally happened? The whole Sisyphus myth implies a hellish punishment which she is being forced to experience over and over. Has she been dead the whole time? If so, this leads to a plot problem of motivation – why are the other characters present to be killed over and over? What did they do to deserve that? Greg in particular seems like a very nice person, having befriended her, letting a homeless teenager live on his yacht, and so on. Why does he have to die over and over?
She goes back to the boat – why? Well, it is assumed she thinks that this time she can save her son. But by the time she is on the boat she appears to have forgotten the whole thing barring vague feelings of unease, and so boards the ship without the knowledge she needs to change the outcome. This one is a convenient plot point I think, unexplained as to why and when her memory conveniently goes. We are, I assume, supposed to put it down to ‘supernatural reasons’. I find that unsatisfactory.
At one point she tells herself that she needs to get to where they board the ship and prevent them from coming on board. This is actually a good idea of the character. Had she made any real attempt to do so and been thwarted in some way it would have been fine, but after deciding this she makes no attempt to actually do it. This makes no sense.
She finds multiple corpses of one of the characters, but no corpses of any of the others. A few times we do see her moving bodies, but not all the time. Where did they go?
There is a version of her seen that is extremely violent, stabbing two of the other characters when she is unsuccessful in shooting them. There is no real arc to explain this version of Jess, who seems quite psychotic. This scene also involves the other two characters not noticing that in the few moments since Jess leaves them until other Jess returns she has somehow changed her clothes.
Why is she so accurate with a rifle? She works in a cafe. I know Americans like guns, and that she might be familiar with a rifle I will accept on that basis, but her high level of accuracy seems implausible.
I enjoyed “Triangle.” It’s an entertaining and exciting mystery. Just don’t look too closely at the logic.