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Monday, May 5, 2014

Triangle (2009) Thriller Time Loop

Triangle (2009) - The first watching of this horror / thriller time loop is the most compelling, you are on this ride of discovery that is cool and freaky at the same time. Then as you learn more you start to question if the plot actually makes sense. If all the things that are happening would actually happen they way we see them with the knowledge we have learned by the end of the film. This is the area of this film that needs to be explored. There is a dreamy forgetfulness that the film contains that allow for all we see but is it really clear in the end is it all just a riddle? Now I imagine that this movie has been talked about to death, but I try not to read too much before watching a film. I go in cold and then often after writing my first impressions go back and watch again. If I really like the film I will then watch commentary tracks. In the end the film is fully explored and I have an entry for this blog. So not to spoil the film too much I will leave that discussion until I have recapped the plot but this feels like one of those films where it will be really hard to work through without spoiling it. So if you have not viewed this film but want to; you may want to see it before reading on. STOP READING HERE TO AVOID SPOILERS!!!
   The starting about six people who go for a day of sailing. Greg (Michael Dorman) the ship captain, his friends Downey (Henry Nixon) and Sally (Rachael Carpani), Sally's friend Heather (Emma Lung), shipmate Victor (Liam Hemsworth) and Greg's date Jess (Melissa George). The inter workings of the group are there to add depth to the character. Heather brought along as a possible love interest for Greg while he is more interested in the girl that works at the diner Jess. When things go horribly wrong for the group we are in the story with them. There has been a bit of character development and when they are put at risk we can connect with their plight. A sudden storm that come out of no where ends the day of sailing. Heather is lost in the overturning of the boat and the remaining five are adrift sitting on the bottom of the overturned boat waiting for rescue. Jess the mother of an autistic child named Tommy (Joshua McIvor) is feeling the guilt of not being with him, having come out for a day that is for her when normally he has to be the only thing in her world. After a day at see the group sees an ocean liner the Aeolus and make it onto the ship. Surprised to find no one on board they investigate the ship. They are sure they could make someone out on deck before they boarded but the giant ship now seems deserted.
  This is where we pick up the story proper and all its time loopiness. We we from this point on refer to the main character as "Early Jess", she is the single character that we will follow for the rest of the story. There as we will learn are more versions of this character in different parts of the ship but it is easiest to define we know she is the one we saw get on the sailing boat at the start of the film. There will be like I said several versions of her already on the boat is a version I will call "Later Jess" she is the version of Early Jess who is starting to figure out what is happening on the boat but has yet to make a vital commitment on how things have to go. A third version who has committed to the inevitable path is "Killer Jess" these three versions of the same character play out roles, that in time transform Early Jess into Later Jess and then into Killer Jess, but lets not get too far ahead of our selves.
  Early in the exploration of the ship the group comes to a information display that will be helpful in understanding the plot better. The ship is named the Aeolus and the display the name is from Greek mythology, he was the god of wind. His son Sisyphus made a promise to Death that he did not keep, as punishment Sisyphus was made to push a rock up a mountain each day for eternity, but at the end of each day the rock would roll back down and he would have to do it again. Connecting this to the experience of Early Jess helps us understand what is going on with her. Later in the film we learn what promise she made and did not keep and how she came to this strange repeating nightmare.
  As they investigate the ship there are several things seen through Early Jess that are suppose to clue us in to the mystery of the ship and her role in it. First is that she starts believing that things on the ship seem familiar, the sense of deja vu is really strong. Naturally her ship mates are less likely to believe that she has been here before. When the group hears something drop they find keys, keys that belong to Early Jess (dropped by Later Jess) but the group can't believe her. It makes no logical sense. Then when Greg is asked by Downey what time it is, he replies 11:30 but at the same time the shot is of Early Jess looking at her watch and behind her hand the clock on the wall, they both read 8:20 another indication that she is on boat time and not necessarily connected with the reality of the others in her group. Then after seeing herself, at least a glimpse in the mirror of the banquet hall Victor heads off looking for who ever it was while Greg and Early Jess walk into room 237 and we see Early Jess framed in three mirrors again signifying the different versions of her. Is this all in her mind? Good question by Greg and after returning to the banquet hall alone we see that Early Jess now sees the food display that was fresh just moments before is now rotten. A great sense of the supernatural is built in this early part of the film and Early Jess is established as the main character. Then people in her group start dying and Jess fights for her own life as the last survivor. She succeeds in forcing the killer (Killer Jess) off the boat with an axe. This is not before Killer Jess says "You have to kill them. Its the only way to get back home. You have to kill them."
 So this is where the first transition comes in we know that Killer Jess is now off the boat, but "Later Jess" who we don't see, who has been shadowing Early Jess all this time is going to become the new Killer Jess, while Early Jess stands on the deck and is surprised to hear shouting off the ship. Looking out she sees her group back on the overturned sail boat. She sees herself and realizes a lot more about what is happening. There is a symbolic movie making device for this transition where Early Jesse hears music, "Anchors Away" and there is a cut as she turns away from it where there is a double take of her doing it twice like a record skipping back and repeating. Now with a new version of herself on the ship, lets call her 2nd Early Jess, this character we have been following becomes Later Jess, her action that we get to follow are similar but not exactly the same as the original Later Jess and so we the audience get to see another part of the characters development that was hidden from us earlier.
  The significance of this section of the story is to show how much the cycle has been going on and it is done in three cool and interesting ways. First as she goes through the emotional trauma realizing what is happening, that she has just seen a version of herself coming on the boat and walking around she ends up in a locker room with papers strewed across the floor. Each one has the words "If They Board, Kill Them All" She writes those words to demonstrate to the audience that it is in her handwriting. There are about 30 of these papers in that room so we know that this moment has happened many times before. She also finds a version of the locket she wears, it has a picture of her son in it so she knows even more strongly what is going on. Looking down a grate she sees a pile of said lockets before losing the one she is wearing to that pile. We follow her as she has the idea to change what happened from when she went through it. She knows what she experienced and what the 2nd early Jess is about to experience and sets about trying to change the direction. Yet she never really does the one thing that could really make a difference and that is to reveal herself to the group who just came on board. Instead she tries to change things a bit, but soon realizes that she can't so much, particularly because there is a version of Killer Jess going around killing off the latest group.
The third significant thing in her final transformation is the scene with 2nd Sally has watched Killer Jess kill her husband Downey and severely wound her. She crawls looking for an escape while Our Later Jess follows her saying it was not her that did this deed. We get this great scene where she climbs up high in the decks and ends up in an area where there are at least 30 versions of dead Sally's all over the place. Our Jess sees now that in the end they all must die. From that viewpoint she sees the 2nd Killer Jess get forced off the ship by 2rd Early Jess and we know that now she will become the new Killer Jess.
  It's all so confusing I am sure in reading this you are having a WTF moment or seven. The third section in the evolution of our Early Jess to Killer Jess is almost complete. Why did it seem that each Killer Jess almost let themselves be forced over the side of the boat. Since they knew that it was the last of the people in the group thus starting a new arrival? They all must die for her to get back home. So committed to that purpose we get the final sequence where our Early Jess is Killer Jess and ends up forced off the boat herself. She wakes on the shores of home, and there is a strange significance to sleeping in this film we can talk about in a while but for now we follow Jess as she returns to her home. Through the window we see the scenes from the beginning of the film played out again. This time though we see a full picture of the events. She sees herself as a frustrated Mother who never gets a break, who hits her autistic child and is not very nice. Driven by the loss she had on the boat our Early Jess decides to change things at home. She kills her mean self and comforts her boy. Together they will leave and start a better life. With her home Jess' body in the trunk of the car she heads out with Tommy for that new life.
  Unfortunately like Sisyphus her cycle is not complete and a gull hitting the windshield of the car stops her in her tracks. She stops,  picks up the gull, and goes to toss it on the beach only to see a pile of gulls there. That vague look of recognition of something she can't quite put her finger on. We of course recognize that she is still in the loop at this point. The car wreck from the yelling child's distractions leave Jess standing looking at the accident. A cabby offers to drive her somewhere and she chooses the harbor, it is sailing day after all. She again sleeps while in the cab and when she gets out the cabby asks her if she is coming back. She promises but then goes to the dock and we see the start of the film again.
 So what to make of all this, a large cycle that repeats and repeats, like the punishment of Sisyphus Jess is stuck. If you take the cab driver as Death, Jess died in a car wreck after the gull hit the window and the child distracted her. Originally she was going to have Tommy come sailing with them so since he also died in the wreck she arrives without him. She accepts a ride from him to the harbor by the cabby. Death gets a promise from Jess about coming back to pay the fare but she does not return, so her punishment, like the mythical character, for this and probably being a bad mother is this loop we witness. But why doesn't she remember and not join the loop? Well sleep seems to be the thing that stops her. When she arrives at the boat in the beginning of the film she has just slept in the car  and is tired and sleeps the first couple hours on the boat. She forgets the loop that happened before ending in the car, so when she ends up on the Aeolus she feels like she has been there but can't quite remember it. Writer / Director Christopher Smith ( Creep (2004), Severance (2006), Black Death (2010)) brings this tale full circle with only a few minor flaws. One is if there have been so many cycles by the time we joined the tale there would have been a lot more blood about the ship. Even though Killer Jess spends time cleaning up bodies there have been at least 30 of these cycles so I imagine the ship soaked in blood. A very cool tail that is well edited and so much that is in the early scenes is shown to have significance in the later scenes. Certainly a sad tale but one worth seeing. A hardy recommendation from the blog on this film. I am not sure how re-watchable it is but I enjoyed it two times through.

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