Getting caught in one time loop isn’t all fun and games and potential romance, despite what movies like Groundhog Day Palm Springs even Happy Death Day could lead you to believe. For single mom Jess (Melissa George), getting caught in a time loop is a source of never-ending terror in writer-director Christopher Smith’s 2009 mind-blowing sci-fi thriller Triangle
Not waking up with the chance to live again the same day, Jess discovers the secret to appreciating life. She is trapped in a constant cycle of violence without any delay, once she goes on a fateful sailing trip with a group of friends.
Smith creates a feeling of unease and fear From the start as a clearly distraught Jess runs through her house, getting ready for the journey, and looking after her young autistic son Tommy (Joshua McIvor). Things quickly get weird.
The doorbell rings, but no one is outside. Jess finds Tommy’s toy boat half sunk in the kiddie pool. She drives to the marina and passes a sign that says “Goodbye, please.” As she greets her friend Greg (Michael Dorman) and his sailing mates, Jess doesn’t seem excited for a fun day on the water. Greg’s sailor Victor (Liam Hemsworth) senses that something is wrong when she seemingly can’t remember where she left her son.
Jess is the odd man out in Greg’s group of friends, aside from possible strange phenomena. She’s a waitress at the restaurant that Greg frequents, and she doesn’t fit this upper class. She’s not the type of person to own a yacht.
Greg’s friends Downey (Henry Nixon) and Sally (Rachel Carpani) bring someone to set him up with, in part because they seem shocked at the idea that he could date Jess. Smith brings about this interpersonal tension with just a few hostile looks and condescending comments, some of which come at the expense of Jess’ parenting and her son’s disability.
Everyone will have more urgent concerns soon when the boat encounters a bizarre storm and capsizes, with Greg’s potential blind date Heather (Emma Lung) thrown overboard and presumably drowned. A large ship looms on the horizon and offers possible rescue, but when the survivors board, they find it deserted.
The ghost ship is a familiar appearance in horror movies, and Smith initially plays the idea that this ship might be haunted, especially in the way he refers to Stanley Kubrick’s The shiningThe characters come across a vintage photo of the same ship from 1932, and stumble into an old-fashioned ballroom with a full buffet. Later, when Greg and Jess hear running water from one of the huts, they walk in room 237 to detect a message with blood on the mirror. Jess returns to the ballroom and finds all the food rotten.
But the mysterious masked figure that begins to attack the characters isn’t a ghost, and the spin of that attacker’s identity isn’t hard to pin down, especially if Jess survives the attack, only to look over the side of the ship and Greg’s turned over. yacht, with herself and her companions on board, awaiting rescue.
Time has turned, but Jess is still there, witness and participant in the same cycle of violence. She is motivated by maternal instinct and is determined to return to her son at all costs. Those charges are the same in every iteration, but Jess’s understanding of it changes as she finds messages she’s left for herself and several discarded artifacts (some horrifyingly gruesome) that indicate the loop has repeated dozens of times.
“I feel like I know this place,” Jess says to Greg as they explore the ship for the first (or perhaps 100th) time. Like Triangle continues, starting to feel like the ship is the manifestation of Jess’s haunted psyche.
Smith fills the film with mirrors and reflections, sometimes just doubling the characters, sometimes splitting them into multiple distorted pieces. George gives Jess a dazed, haunted behavior throughout the movie, always one step behind her own future / past actions. Only in the final moments of the film does it become clear how much guilt and shame she carries with her during the journey.
Triangle is a journey through Jess’s troubled mind, but it’s also an intricately constructed sci-fi story, the kind of movie that can inspire multiple viewers and one of those painstaking charts trying to untangle the timeline. Movies with that kind of structure can become emotionally detached, more like math problems than stories, but Smith maintains the foundation in Jess’s mental state, even as he carefully uses puzzle pieces that pay off later.
It’s satisfying to see an early moment come back in a different context as the loop repeats, but what makes Triangle What is striking is that those moments also get a new emotional resonance every time they return.