Triangle (2009): A Film that Would Make Pythagorus Give Up Math

As a general rule, no one likes making the same mistake twice. Most people tend to try and better themselves and break free of destructive patterns, but sometimes they are too strong and pull us back in time and time again. At the core, that is what Christopher Smith’s 2009 film Triangle explores. I’ve had this film on my radar for a while as well as Smith’s other well known film 2006’s Severance, but until now, I haven’t had a chance to fit one of them into my viewing. I can practically guarantee that now I will be going back to look over his whole filmography and anxiously await the 2010 release of his new film Black Death. Before I get into talking about Triangle, I want to stress that I am going to desperately strive to make this a spoiler free review, but this film is going to be very tricky to discuss. However, I would not want to ruin a second of this film for anyone who hasn’t seen it. For those of you who have, I would love to discuss it in the comments section.

Seeing as the film is called Triangle and it has to do with boating, the Bermuda Triangle of course springs to mind quite quickly, but the film never expressly states it has anything to do with that mysterious area though from the events that unfold it is easy to assume that it does. More plainly the film gets it name from the boat ‘Triangle’ where single mother of an autistic child Jess (Melissa George) is meeting Greg (Michael Dorman) and four other friends for an afternoon pleasure cruise. Their day at sea comes to an abrupt halt when the wind suddenly dies out, and the tiny yacht is rocked by an electrical storm that moves in from nowhere. The five survivors are set adrift on the upturned boat until a massive cruise liner named the Aeolus appears from out of nowhere. They find the ship empty, but soon someone is trying to kill all of them leaving only Jess alive to fight the masked gunman. After Jess battles the killer off the side of the ship, she hears cries from off the bow of the ship and sees herself and her friends climbing aboard the Aeolus again.

I think that is about all I could possibly say about the plot without venturing into spoiler territory. Triangle is a film that could concern time travel, mental breakdowns or schizophrenia, or a damnation of the sort not seen since the Greeks got their hands on the idea of eternal punishment. I say that it could concern all of those things because honestly, after a single viewing, I can’t say for certainty which of those that it derives more of an inspiration from. The film that I’m sure Triangle will be most compared to is Timecrimes, which is in and of itself a befuddling experience in time travel. However, I think there is little comparison beyond killers with a bag over their head. Both films play with the perception of time, but where Timecrimes all but spells out the whys and hows of the events that occur, Triangle leaves much up to the interpretation of the viewer. Overall, a fairer comparison could be made to The Shining, a film that clearly influenced Mr. Smith.

That being said, I want to make it clear that Triangle is not a film to put on while you’re clipping coupons or diddling around with your Facebook. It requires your undivided attention to detail so it can unfold its story. Nearly every detail in the film is important, and the more intently you watch it, the more rewarding the outcome of the film will be. Christopher Smith doubled as both the writer and director of Triangle, and on both fronts he made a film that stands up with some of the best edge of your seat thrillers. Each time I thought I had this film figured out or trapped in its own created paradoxes, I soon encountered either an explanation or another mystery that I could not wait to see unfold. Very seldom do I use the word ’rapt’ to describe how I felt during a film, but this time it seems to suit both my response and the film quite perfectly.

While the scripting and direction (which I have more to say about later) were both spot on, none of it could have been possible without the powerhouse performance of Melissa George. The Australian born actress has made several noteworthy appearances before in films like Mulholland Drive, Turistas, and 30 Days of Night as well as runs of TV in shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and In Treatment, but I find it hard to believe she has ever given such an emotional and gripping performance as in Triangle. Her character Jess is the only constant throughout, and while all the actors are fine, we get to know very little of them. Jess is the core of the story, and as such, Ms. George carries the weight of the whole film on her back. If we are to believe the events transpiring or really get tied up in it, we must sympathize greatly with her character. I found it very easy to do, and that might well be the best trick the film has to offer.

I said I wanted to say more about Chris Smith’s directing, and I don’t want to make a liar out of myself. I haven’t seen a movie this tense that unfolds in the light of day since I sat down to watch And Soon the Darkness some time ago. From the sun-drenched decks of the Aeolus to the bowels of the engine room, Smith creates a heavy atmosphere that is pervasive and smothering. While there are a few nifty camera tricks thrown in, they were not distracting at all, and if anything, they added to the story immensely to illustrate to the audience what was going on without ever needing to explain it. In fiction writing, a common piece of advice is to “show, don’t tell”, and Triangle should be at the top of the list for how to do that right. Even when there is exposition, of which there is little, it only adds to the layers of the story rather than holding your hand.

If I had made a best of 2009 list (and seen this in ’09 for that matter), I have a sneaking suspicion Triangle would have taken one of the two top spots. I can’t rightfully say it was the best film of 2009, but it is by far the best film I have seen in quite some time. From top to bottom this is a film that deserves the attention of any film lover. I know that in a couple of days after I let it sink in; I’ll be ready to see this one again. That my friends would be no repeated mistake, but another chance to spot more clues, to derive more meaning, and to be thrilled once more by a film that far exceeded my expectations. So if you feel like you’re caught in a destructive cycle of crap films (maybe you watched Nightmare on Elm Street 2010), then break the pattern and track Triangle down so you can break free.

Bugg Rating 


  1. This really is an amazing film. Unfortunate that it didn't get a whole lot of fanfare initially. But it is getting a lot of love from us bloggers.

    My interpretation of the film: Melissa George's character was stuck in a never ending cycle. You could say to right her wrongs or make up for past transgression. Especially when she comes face to face with her doppelganger. I took the 'event' as a killing of the self that she had grown sick of (i.e. taking out her frustrations on her autistic child). When she didn't get things right, she started back at square one, on the dock.

    But as you mention, there are a lot of things going on here conceptually that works. That's whats so brilliant about it.

    And that screen capture of the bodies piled on the ship deck, when that scene went down, it really got to me. Probably the most shocking scene in the entire film.

    Good stuff TL.

  2. Thanks for making me aware of this flick. Melissa George is always good. I can't wait to see what she does here.

  3. As soon as someone starts watching this film they'll remember your pile-of-dead-bodies screencap Bugg. End spoiler.

    That said - I hated this film. I got to disagree with you re Timecrimes. Triangle was a complete rippoff. Where Timecrimes had a narrative direction Triangle plays the loop without conclusion. When Hollywood does this kind of thing it's called an inferior remake. When the British do it it's called

    -gasp!- we got another film made.

  4. @PoT- Thanks for the comment. i subscribe to the same interpretation as you, but I could see how all of them might be thought of as valid so I wanted to include them.

    @Theron- thanks for commenting, if you're a Melissa George fan you'll have much to like here. I think you're a first time commenter, so thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you again.

    @A.Jaye- Unless people are paying a crap-ton of attention, I doubt many people will recall the shot. If they do, I don't think it spoils any of the main arc. I state that her friends are killed and there are time loops so it stands to reason. (Also it was frickin hard to try and get a shot of either the scraps of paper or the pile of lockets.)

    Secondly, I'm very happy to have someone come and disagree as well as follow my blog so welcome, and I hope he can have many great discussions. I have to disagree with you about Timecrimes. It is really a clear cut case of time travel while Triangle is more of a metaphysical tale.

    Timecrimes is supposed to be a single narrative, but the point of Triangle, to me at least, is that it is a loop that will never, ever end for Jess.

    Thanks again for coming by to comment A. Jaye, and I hope to see you around here more often.

  5. Yeah, I liked this flick also, but it was tentative. I found it very reminiscent of Timecrimes, and it does get a little repetitive, but overall I definitely enjoyed it.

    Severance was fun. Creep was decent, but probably the least of his flicks.

  6. this movie was horrible. this movie was like walking off a pier to nowhere. i am so dissapointed in this blog. 5 bugs? you have got to be kidding me. it doesnt even deserve a mention. wow you missed the mark for taste. after i saw this movie i felt like i had been abused. its not intelligent. it doesnt resolve anything. there is 0 explination. it tried way too hard to be something that it wasnt: a good film.

    1. im sorry but im baffled when someone doesnt see what true genius something is - im happy to admit when im the idiot and cant follow a movie plot, but for Triangle its not that hard, and its EXTREMELY intelligent! very multi-layered! so in my opinion, you're lacking in the intelligence. not everything in life is a matter of opinion. you cant see Niagara Falls and call it unimpressive. if you do, you're wrong plain and simple. same for this movie. at the very LEAST you have to think about it to figure it out (which is totally possible to some degree) and you're clearly just not willing to bother. you want easy answers, and to not to have to think, and for that laziness you label a film 'good'. you simply have bad taste. some people do. otherwise everything would be 'good' or 'pretty' or 'interesting'

  7. First off let me say to Anonymous that if you're going to disagree with me, fine. Hell, I complimented A. Jaye for disagreeing with me, but I have no respect for someone who leaves a comment, but doesn't have the nuts to say who they are.I missed the mark for taste. Well you missed the line that said Name/Url so we're even.

    @Kangas- Glad to hear that Severance has some merit. Creep, I believe was his first flick, and it did look a little sketchy, but I'll probably still check it out.

  8. Seeing that my name was brought up let me put my view in prospective.

    I'm a champion of British film. I'm a champion of Nigerian film (Nollywood) and our day will come.

    In terms of Triangle - it's a hit o a miss. I expect I would have loved this film had I not been aware of Timecrimes. I would have loved it faults and all but I see it as a fraud. Severence I've not seen. Creep was excellent. In terms of directing the tension and narrative Triangle was pure entertainment and this is what horror should be. What the blogsphere shouldn't be is egostitical and finger pointing.

    I've learnt that at Thrill Fiction. Leave that to the mainstream.

    The Lighting Bug's Lair is doing a good job in presenting an informed opinion. There is a whole internet where people can go and talk nonsense.


  9. Thanks for the second comment A. Jaye. Out of curiosity, is there any Nollywood films you could recommend for me to check out. I've never seen a Nigerian film, but I would be very interested in seeing one.

  10. The Indian film industry (Bollywood) hasn't really broke internatonal. The fledging Nigerian industry hasn't as yet. Here in England we the Nigerian coommunity get to aee whatever's made in the mother counrty but the only peolpe intrested so far are Africans.

    In Nigeria there is access to every American movie ever made. the people prefer the home made stuff. can you balme us? In terms of recommendations - that's a hard one. The best/all movies are melodramas. However I'll direct you to this

    I liked the film.

  11. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobMay 8, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    If the director is British how can it be a good film?, its an absurd contradiction in terms.

  12. Just watched it last night and thoroughly enjoyed it (though I haven't seen Timecrimes yet, it should be said). There was a moment where I started to get bored thinking I figured it out (i.e., when 'our Jess' becomes the Baghead about 50 minutes in) but then it kept going, which surprised me. I have a pet peeve of any scene where a character is driving and keeps turning around to take his/her eyes off the road, so that pissed me off, but otherwise, very strong film. And I recommend Severance, although I never would have realized this was the same director.

  13. I absolutely loved this movie. I was engaged pretty much from beginning to end. The story actually makes the audience think (which is probably why Anonymous didn't like it). I've seen it four times now and catch something new each time. For example, I never really noticed the significance of story of the man pushing the rock up the hill endlessly until my most recent viewing. However, the movie named him as Aeolus when it was actually Sisyphus. But that's a very minor detail. Overall, I would recommend this movie to anybody who likes a good mystery. And if you don't understand it the first time through, watch it again. It becomes clearer with each viewing. Thanks for the Blog Lightningbug.

  14. I absolutely loved Triangle, it's now one of my favourite films! I've recommended it to several family members and friends- sadly none of them share my enthusiasm, I think they just get too confused. However the complexivity is what draws me and I've watched the movie so many times I've lost count now! Anyway I'm sure we all have our own theories but I think maybe Jess accidently killed Tommy (maybe she hit him too hard when she was being abusive?) and her mind couldn't handle it so she has created a fictional world where she can save Tommy- but her need to punish herself means she goes through the loop of events again and again..and again. I can imagine her staying inside a mental ward staring at the wall while inside her head the events of Triangle is raging...


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