September 7, 2011

Triangle Review (Christopher Smith)

Melissa George should look behind her back in Christopher Smith's Triangle.

The Puzzling Insanity of Christopher Smith's Triangle (2009)

Many time travel films (especially those taking place in the past) delve into issues of meeting another version of yourself. Sometimes the characters just need to worry about altering the future (their present). This is nothing compared to the dreaded time loop, which can become pure hell for its participants. There's the Groundhog Day structure where the events reset and only the lead character is aware they're the same. Source Code used this format effectively to show Jake Gyllenhaal repeatedly searching for a train bomber. This is also a common type of plot for sci-fi television shows and has appeared on the Star Trek series, Stargate SG-1, and others.

While that situation is tricky, it's nothing compared to a more complex version of the time loop. This variation brings the lead characters into contact with themselves, which can wreak all types of havoc for the unknowing participants. Timecrimes offers a great example and twists wonderfully in upon itself. But that's a cakewalk when compared to the situation facing Jess (Melissa George) in Triangle. Directed by Christopher Smith (Severance, Black Death), this mind-bending film involves a lot more than just two versions of characters interacting at once. Trapped on an abandoned cruise ship, a small group of friends continually face the same obstacles, and there may be no way out of this unending loop.

Melissa George faces herself in Christopher Smith's mind-bending film Triangle.

I mostly know Melissa George from her thankless role on Alias' third season as the wife of Vaughn (Michael Vartan). In that role, she did solid work but was the obstacle blocking Jennifer Garner's Sydney Bristow from reuniting with Vaughn. Reviewing George's recent career, she's appeared in a surprising number of genre films, including A Lonely Place to Die, 30 Days of Night, and Turistas. The blond-haired Australian appears in nearly every scene of this film, so her role is crucial to its success. She's forced to play multiple versions of herself and make it clear (if that's possible) which one we're seeing. Thankfully, George does a nice job conveying the fear and darkness lurking inside Jess. Pretty much all the action revolves around her moves aboard the ship, and we barely spend enough time with the others to care about their situations.

I knew little about Triangle going in and just took a shot based on a few recommendations online. This lack of knowledge made for an even more entertaining viewing of this surprising film. I'll give a warning upfront; if you're not the type of person who enjoys movies about alternate realities, time loops, and fairly confusing sci-fi, you should avoid this movie. I love these types of movies, and this is one of the better examples of the genre. Smith cleverly delivers a sense of foreboding from the first shot, and the chaos only increases until the last moment. Even before the characters reach the cruise ship, Jess' chilling behavior gives the feeling that she's already suffering through trauma.

Melissa George and Michael Dorman try their best in Christopher Smith's Triangle.

At first, it seems like there's a pretty easy way out of this trap. Jess just needs to send her pals like Greg (Michael Dorman) in a different direction to avoid their original fate. Of course, trying to stop the events could actually be causing the mayhem. In that case, her best move would be doing nothing. However, it's not human nature to just sit back and watch your friends get hurt. It's similar to the question at the end of the fifth season finale of Lost. Jack (Matthew Fox) is determined that he can change their fate by blowing up the bomb. However, it's also possible that the explosion caused the problems from the start. Jess spends little time pondering these questions, which might explain the unfortunate results.

Triangle's final act includes several remarkable shots that will stick with me for a long time. One brings the horror of this time loop into stark clarity and reveals the ultimately futile situation. Another involves Jess watching another Jess acting cruelly and taking quick, brutal action. These visceral moments raise this film above the typical genre entry and make it a memorable experience. It's not easy to make this type of mind-bender, and Smith has fun toying with Jess and the audience. He plays fair and reveals enough to keep us involved without outlining the events too clearly. The main flaw is our interest in the supporting characters, who are basically on screen to be killed. The only exception is Greg, and that's mostly due to Dorman's screen presence. His character is thinly written, but there appears to be more beneath the surface. Ultimately, the one-dimensional characters only slightly hamper this enjoyable movie, which should please genre fans looking for some original thrills.

23 comments:

  1. Sounds Fun!!! Triangles FTW!!

    I just saw A Lonely Place To Die and thought that Melissa George was pretty solid in that! A Long way from 'Home and away'

    Nice write up matey

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  2. This movie has been on my list for such a long time I will try to see it this month. Really digging all these time travel movies, probably will try and watch a couple of more of them...

    Did you see the Time Travel article up on Anomolous btw?

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  3. Glad to hear that you're enjoying the marathon. Most of the choices have been pretty good so far.

    I did see the post on Anomalous about the top time travel movies. It had some good choices, but I thought a few picks were a stretch to fit the category. The one that I want to see on there is Mr. Nobody. That sounded really interesting.

    Thanks for the comment!

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  4. youve made me kinda want to see this one. i had already dismissed it as b-movie drivel so i am prepared for some egg to land firmly on my face.

    i also am looking forward to mr nobody. it's here, waiting to be watched with a bazillion others.

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  5. I'll say that Triangle is definitely a B movie, but I think it's well-done and interesting. If you end up checking it out, let me know what you think. Mr. Nobody is joining the long list of movies to see; the more things I watch, the more there is to check out.

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  6. Yes, Mr.Nobody is a must see (it's in my top 3 of all-time favorite movies). Although personally I wouldn't class it as a time travel movie.

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  7. @Nostra Really? I thought it was mind numbingly boring and over blown.

    But that was a while back, maybe I would appreciate it more now

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  8. @Scott, yeah I absolutely loved it and love how complex it is. Really enjoyed the concepts of it as well.

    @Dan, just saw this movie yesterday and it was such a great movie, especially the bits were you see multiple items/people making you understand how long this time loop has already been going...

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  9. @Nostra, that's great that you caught up with this movie and enjoyed it! That shot on the top deck with the many versions of the same character is just stunning. It takes a lot to surprise me with a movie, and that scene did it for sure.

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  10. dan i've now seen this film and whilst it was not as much of a horror as i had been told before your review it wasn't amazing either.

    i was happily enjoying the silliness of the premise right up until it became a completely different movie. the car crash is what i'm talking about. from that point on it felt too silly and totally inexplicable and as such left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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  11. Interesting take. The car crash didn't bother me too much, and it does explain why she's so out of it when she arrives at the pier. Of course, it also does eliminate any clear explanation for why all this is happening. It's a vicious circle that's destined to continue for eternity, I'd guess.

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  12. But then I went back and thought about her dialogue from the first go round and if she's in this constant loop the line "I've seen this ship before" or whatever it is makes no sense as she's already aware that its happening right?

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  13. My interpretation is that she's in shock from the crash, so she doesn't really remember what happens. The memories are still there, but it's not clear because she just went through the accident. It's a stretch and doesn't completely make sense, but that's what I took from the rules of the movie.

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  14. I see your point. But I got the impression she died and she was in a never ending circle of hell. Something about choice of lighting and camera angles gave me that idea.

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  15. That may be true. At first when the taxi driver appeared, I thought it might be some type of after-life transport. I dismissed it after she arrived at the dock, but I guess it's possible too. The Triangle title made me think the circle related more to the Bermuda Triangle than her death.

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  16. Yeah me too. But then the yacht was called triangle. Too confusing!

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  17. "Reviewing George's recent career, she's appeared in a surprising number of genre films"

    A genre film that she had a smaller role in that you should definitely see is Dark City. I reviewed it here as part of my After Star Wars set (no spoilers):

    http://tipsfromchip.blogspot.com/2011/08/movie-dark-city-1998.html

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  18. Chip, I'm a big fan of Dark City, though I didn't remember that Melissa George was in it. I enjoyed your review. I also wrote a piece about the Director's Cut DVD a few years back for another site if you're interested:

    http://digitallyobsessed.com/displaylegacy.php?ID=10090

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  19. Dan, thanks for the link. You put a ton of great information into that post. Well done.

    I agree that Sewell is not who most people would think of for a role like that. In hindsight, though, I think it was a good thing it was him and not someone like Depp or Cruise, because they would have potentially made the movie take a backseat to their acting. People would be watching the movie to see them, not to see the story and atmosphere.

    Melissa George had only a small role as the woman who comes back to Sewell's apartment with him. Being completely honest - the reason she stuck in my mind was her nude scene and then later when she was on Alias and I checked on IMDB to see why she looked familar to me.

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  20. In my view if the was actual time loops then the cycles of repetition would be identical.

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    1. That's a good point. It's hard to pick the right term to describe the repetition, which is part of what makes it so interesting.

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  21. i disagree, TRIANGLE is an A movie. and now even moreso since you've mentioned a parallel nod from it to the X-Files episode of the same name! and Amelie is correct, NOT time-loops per se.

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    1. Robert, I think it's mostly splitting hairs on how you define a "B movie" versus anything else. I feel like time loops works okay since she is following a circle even if it's different than something like Timecrimes. Either way, I'm glad to hear that you're also a fan.

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