Christopher Smith’s “Triangle” is a clever, tightly plotted supernatural thriller that, towards the end, actually feels more like a slimmer, more condensed version of a Paul Thomas Anderson drama than the third feature-length film from the guy who gave us “Creep” and “Severance”. The film is not nearly as gory as those other two, but it certainly packs more emotional punch and requires more of an investment in the old noggin to get through. Although yes, if you missed anything the first time around, you will benefit from a second or even third viewing, but to be honest with you, I’m not sure if you’ll want to take that plunge because, well, “Triangle” isn’t exactly the kind of film that lends itself to repeat viewing from an entertainment standpoint. One trip was certainly more than enough for me, and I suspect it’ll be the same for most of you out there.
Melissa George stars as Jess, your average, pretty waitress and single mom to an autistic son. As the film opens, Jess is getting ready for her first real “me time” with the handsome Greg (Michael Dorman) on his yacht. Coming along are Greg’s childhood friends Sally (Rachael Carpani) and Downey (Henry Nixon), who have brought a third wheel, Heather (Emma Lung) in hopes of hooking her up with their buddy, unaware that Greg only has eyes for Jess. Also along for the ride is Greg’s second-in-command, Victor (Liam Hemsworth). The trip is initially uneventful, but soon a mysterious storm appears out of nowhere, upturns the yacht, kills Heather, and leaves the rest adrift. Luckily for the survivors, an ocean liner passes by, but as soon as they board the massive vessel, they realize something is amiss – the ship appears to be utterly deserted, and soon, Jess is getting feelings of déjà vu. To make matters worse, a masked killer begins stalking them with a shotgun.
As you can probably guess by the title and premise, Smith’s “Triangle” plays on the existence of the Bermuda Triangle, even if the film never actually mentions that infamous stretch of ocean just off the coast of Florida by name, or indeed ever alludes to its existence at all within the movie. But since the Triangle does in fact exist, and weird things have been reported to have happened within it, “Triangle” has a built-in logic (of sorts) that it never really has to explain, even if it cared to try, which it simply has no interest in doing. This actually works well for the movie as it steam-rolls head-first into its mystery in the First Act, and by the 30-minute mark Melissa George is running from the shotgun-wielding killer. The film gets progressively more complicated and the plot more twisted as things begin to unravel and Jess begins to realize what is happening to her. To say more about “Triangle” would be to give away too much, so I’ll stop right there.
The film hinges on Melissa George, whose character is onscreen almost the entire time. The “30 Days of Night” actress shows plenty of range, turning in an affecting, strong performance as our Final Girl. The film’s final Third Act, in particular, is all about George, and she’s more than up to the task. Smith, who also wrote the script, is careful not to reveal too much about Jess’s home life, and as the film opens, we only get snippets of her life with son Tommy. As Jess eventually joins the others on their yacht cruise, we can’t help but wonder if something has happened to Jess and her son, or indeed, if the boy is actually “in school” as she tells Victor. As events unfold, we begin to believe that a mighty weight hangs on our leading lady’s shoulders, reflected in what at first comes across as an unhinged personality, but quickly turns into quiet, determined desperation, the reasons for which we (and she) don’t realize until it’s much too late.
The rest of the supporting cast does fine, including Liam Hemsworth, brother of the future Thor and Australia’s next greatest and latest import, Chris Hemsworth. The younger Hemsworth doesn’t have much to do here, but then again, neither does anyone else in the cast except for Michael Dorman as the would-be love interest. As for gore, there is some, including an “out of the blue” sorta-kill scene that will leave plenty of viewers squeamish. “Triangle” isn’t really about gore, and the violence is tempered and kept mainly in the middle section, when the masked killer strikes. In that regard, the film is certainly more “adult” than Smith’s previous works, which will either disappoint you if you were looking for more of the same from him, or please you if you were looking for growth in the director.
Overall, I enjoyed “Triangle”, and found it to be a clever, captivating film with a lot of good ideas and very sound execution by Christopher Smith. Melissa George turns in a pitch-perfect performance, and as cliché as it sounds, the film’s unfolding mystery should keep viewers at the edge of their seats waiting to find out what happens next, trying to figure out what’s already happened, and dreading what will happen. The film has that mind screw quality about it that makes it a satisfying watch, even if the final reel is all downer material. You’re not going to leave “Triangle” wanting to come back for another round anytime soon, but you will leave feeling as if you’ve just been treated to a well thought out, acted, executed, and ultimately, smart supernatural horror movie.
“Triangle” docks on DVD February 2, 2010 from First Look Pictures.
Christopher Smith (director) / Christopher Smith (screenplay)
CAST: Melissa George … Jess
Liam Hemsworth … Victor
Rachael Carpani … Sally
Emma Lung … Heather
Michael Dorman … Greg
Henry Nixon … Downey
Joshua McIvor … Tommy