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Oh my good lord how I love this movie. I don’t have enough high superlatives for Triangle. I just can’t say enough about this film. And I have to give credit where credit is due… when we were discussing what we ought to put in the world’s best mind bending movie list, I think I had a couple of you mention Triangle to me. So seriously, thanks gang for bringing this movie to my attention.
If this isn’t your first time here, you know that we totally dig diving into cleverly complex films that get us to think… cause our brains to turn inside out, and Triangle is a perfect example of a fantastic Head-job of a movie that will take us a while to unpack and decipher. But first, if you haven’t seen the movie… um yeah, you need to leave fairly quickly. Cause this post is going to probably get kinda crazy really fast. But first, if you didn’t even know there was a movie called Triangle, I’ll be nice and let you watch the trailer, and then we are off to the races.
Wait, what? Hahahah. Such a good movie!
Triangle Nomenclature and Groundrules
Triangle is an extraordinarily complex setup, with a complex set of inner-locking rules that you think you are constantly breaking, but you actually aren’t. Later on, I will diagram the flows of time and the flows of the various Jesses that we see throughout the movie. But for now we are going to keep the Jesses sorted and in an orderly fashion in this way:
Jess1 = Jess-Prime = Sweater Jess
Jess2 = Jess-Secunde = T-shirt Jess
Jess3 = Jess-Tertie = Bag Jess
JessN = Jess-Quarte = Dress Jess
Where this will get really messy will be when we have offshoots, or variants of Jess2 or offshoots of Jess3… but maybe we’ll call those Jess2a, Jess2b or what have you. This will make more sense as we walk through the timeline and we watch as these splinterings happen. Don’t worry… I’ll call them out clearly. Fair enough?
Triangle Movie Overview
Well, normally, I try to keep the suspense of the movie and reveal the inner locking tricks at the end in the theories section… but with this one, we open with an extraordinarily important line. Jess is talking to her autistic son, and she is saying “You just had a bad dream baby, bad dreams make you think you are seeing something that you aren’t.” This is such a huge line. Alright, alright, we’ll discuss why this is such a big line at the end. But I can’t contain myself dangit. GAH! Regardless, all through the opening scenes we are seeing tons and tons of foreshadowing. Sounds of gulls, sailboats, ocean motifs and forward glances to where we are going. (Or where we’ve been? Something.)
And off she heads in a taxi to the yacht to meet Greg. Greg is someone the Jess meet at the diner where she works. Jess is obviously someone that just needs a day off after caring for her son non-stop. Which, reminds me, we probably ought to introduce the characters in some sort of orderly fashion… no?
Jess – Our protagonist and mentally unstable hero.
Greg – The boat owner and individual that invited Jess.
Heather – Blind date introduction for Greg.
Victor – Down on his luck hired boathand.
Downey – A childhood friend of Greg’s.
Sally – Downey’s wife, but dated Greg in the 8th grade.
But are there more to these individual players? Do they have a bigger part to play in our little drama?!? Great question. Great question. Let us away… and find out. Once the six leave the port, Jess has a several hour nap. But pretty quickly after a storm comes up. We learn that Victor doesn’t like Jess because she seemed to not remember where her boy was. Well. About that. And we also get a distress call that will become important later on.
Chaos happens amid the storm. The sails rip and the mast breaks and the hull capsizes and we lose Heather among the chaos. (Look at me throwin down all kinds of nautical term-age. Blam! I’m sure 99% of that was wrong. Here, THE BOAT FLIPS.) And then after the calm, a huge cruise ship appears. An eerie looking ghost ship of sorts. They seem to see someone? Maybe? Or not. And in an attempt to make the details of Revolution 1 make more sense, I think I’m going to give you the details in outline form to help make it more clear:
TRIANGLE REVOLUTION #1
- The Five board the ship and begin walking the halls
- Victor finds Jess1‘ keys in one of the hallways
- They find the dining hall
- Jess1 yells out – I SAW SOMEONE… and Victor runs off to find out who it is.
- Greg and Jess1 head into a cabin (that happens to be the same as her address.)
- When they do, they see the water running and a sign written in blood, “Go To Theater”
- “Victor’s in trouble”
- Downey and wife follow blood to theater.
- Greg also heads to theater.
- Victor, bloody, arrives at dining hall, starts choking her
- Jess1 survives by shoving finger into wound in back of victors head and kills him
- Jess1 goes to theater and finds Greg shot? And Downey and Sally freaking.
- Someone shoots Sally and Downey from balcony
- Critically wounded, Sally and Downey allege Jess shot Greg
- Then someone with a gun chases Jess into the engine room.
- They fight on the deck and Jess gets away.
- Jess1 gets an axe and the drop on Jess3/Bag Jess
- As Jess3 goes overboard she says, “Kill them all, it’s the only way, kill them.”
- Jess1 bumps backwards into phonograph and the timeline hitches
TRIANGLE REVOLUTION #2
- Loop resets, she unstuck the record. And hears them yelling up to boat, “help us!”
- Jess2 is standing just around the corner from herself, “I recognize this hallway.”
- On her way dining room, she notices the bloody, “Go to theater” sign was already there.
- Jess2 sees Downey’s body being eaten by seagulls.
- Victor comes to deck (“How did you get here so fast?”) and tries to show him Downey’s body in the water.
- Jess2 was trying to get Victor’s attention when she slammed his head into the wall… er, spike…
- “I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this.” as Jess2 runs away.
- In the hold she finds notes written over and over again… “If they board kill them all.”
- She checks her handwriting to see if it’s hers and then crumples it up… which adds another.
- Jess2 realizes that she has been running this loop indefinitely.
- Snags and loses her necklace, and piles of hundreds of necklaces on the floor.
- IMPORTANT – Jess2 BREAKS THE LOOP by going in to the dining hall and not letting Jess1 kill Victor.
- Jess2 goes into theater and shoots at Jess3 who is shooting at Downey and Sally who now survive.
- Jess2 shot Jess3 in the head. Jess2 gives gun to Downey and tells him to trust no one.
- Jess3 or Bag Jess takes bag off and tells them if they want to live they need to follow her.
- All three (Jess3, Downey, and Sally) go to 237 and Jess3 attacks the couple, and Sally gets away.
- Jess3 says, “sorry, but I love my son.”
- Sally gets away and radios for help, and then Jess2 radios as well – which he heard before.
- Jess2 talks tracks Sally, and tells her that she didn’t do this. But she is laying among a pile of Sallys.
- Then Jess2 looks over the railing and sees herself attacking Bag/Jess3, Which is the end of loop 1.
TRIANGLE REVOLUTION #3
- “Until everyone is dead?” And now she’s determined to kill everyone.
- And now Jess is trying to stop the boat (ineffectively), and get back to the overturned yacht. “I want to go home.”
- Then, “Don’t be scared victor, I know how to save you.”
- Jess3 uses the blood to write, “Go to the theater”… and dumps Downey and Sally into the ocean.
- She then heads to the dining hall. “Greg told me to tell you we should all meet in the theater.” She gets ammo, and dresses up like bag Jess.
- Jess3 follows Greg to the balcony of the theater.
- Jess3: “I don’t want you to see my face, this isn’t me. And we aren’t here. We are out there on the yacht. And when I kill you, we will return.”
- Jess3 “The boat comes back when all of you are dead. And I’ll be waiting. And I won’t let any of them board. Not even myself.”
- Jess3 follows Jess1 into the hold and then we have the fight. Jess1 has Jess3 cornered. “You have to kill them. Kill them.”
- Jess3 falls out into the water and wakes up on the beach.
- So happy! She made it out of the loop! YAY!
- Jess3 heads back to the house and discovers an evil JessN in the house with her son.
- JessN – ” I’m tired of cleaning up after you! All I ask is for one day off.” Jess3 goes around back and gets a SLEDGE!
- After killing JessN – Jess3 comforts Tommy and we are at the beginning again. “Bad dreams make you think you are seeing things.”
- Jess3 puts JessN in the trunk and while Jess3 and Tommy are leaving to dump the body, she hits a seagull.
- When she goes to dump the bird she notices that there is a huge pile of them.
- When they are driving away, Tommy screams because of a truck headed right for them.
- Jess3 “Stop screaming.” BLAM.
- JessN has fallen out of trunk, and Tommy is on the street as well.
- Jess3 survived and is now standing next to the car crash.
- A taxi driver takes her to the harbor. “I’ll leave the meter running.”
- Taxi driver – “you will come back won’t you?” “Yes, I promise.”
We are already near 2,000 words and we’ve only just covered the most basic of what’s. There is so much else going on here to discuss.
Triangle Innerworkings and Rules
Normally, when we discuss looping movies like this one – say, Timecrimes, ARQ, Edge of Tomorrow, and others – usually, the resulting rule we find is that changes are possible, and even necessary to save your self from this predetermined hell that has swallowed our characters whole. These movies see redemption as a form of works based salvation. Pull off the perfect day, kill the attacking aliens, and survive another day (Edge of Tomorrow). Etc. But in this movie we have a different set of rules, there is no changing the history of the loop… or is there?
This immutableness will be the biggest discussion and debate in the comments I am sure. But Jess2 totally changes the loop! She defends her friends in the theater. She tries to save Sally. Etc. Etc. Right? And Jess3 changes things as well, no!?? Maybe. But another option is that Jess’s loop allows a myriad of permutations and deviations from the norm, but never allow her out of the loop. Maybe? Or could it be she just hasn’t found the right combination of actions and events that will eventually let her free, and we just haven’t seen it yet?? Maybe, but to determine this we probably have to come to a conclusion as to why Jess is in the loop in the first place. Then, and only then, will we be able to determine if she is locked in this loop or if she will eventually get free.
TRIANGLE THEORIES and POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS
Theory #1 – It’s Just a Dream
In these types of movies, one of the simplest and easiest cop outs ever is the dream theory. Jess has fears about her son Tommy. She worries about not being able to provide for Tommy. She desperately wants a day off, and dammit, life shouldn’t be this hard. This theory really isn’t a stretch. And actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize just how hard pressed to dismantle it. She has Freudian issues and she’s dreaming about them… and her dream is a dream about being locked in a dream. I’ve had this happen in a dream before. Haven’t you? (this always makes me nervous, because I realize just how strange I am.) Yeah, a big caterpillar like in Alice in Wonderland climbed up my body, and chewed my head clean off. My body falls to the ground and as it does my perspective shifts to another me looking on. Aghast at what has just happened to the other me, and I run. Until I come to another room, where there is another Caterpillar, and you know what it does? chews my head clean off. You get the idea.
But I hate this explanation. Because it is the laziest of the lazy explanations possible.
Theory #2 – Triangles As Settling Her Death
Recently, I discussed another movie like this one wherein the same things were happening over and over again. It was called Stay. Wherein a similar revolving plotline ensued, and the only way out was for the protagonist to make peace with his death. Is that is what is happening here? Could it be that Jess has died, and she is just working out this fact? A lot of things would snap together if this were true.
For example, the death of Tommy, and this recurring horror of this haunted boat? Maybe it’s just a symbol for Jess working out the fact that she is dying and needs to let go. For this theory to work out there are a number of loose ends. Like, for example, our protagonist, the one the camera follows never dies. Not from the beginning to the end. We watch as she arrives at the harbor, and then heads out to the boat, and learns how the loops are working, until she finds herself back on the shore again. She never dies. So where does this death come from?
The most logical death would be while out on the sea. One of the things that bothered me about this movie is the character Heather. Heather was the one that was a blind date for Greg, the boat owner. But early on Heather tells Greg, yeah, I’m not interested either. And then she dies, almost immediately. Just completely disappears. So she is the epitome of a superfluous character. And I may not know a ton about screenplay writing, but um, that’s not how it generally works. But could it be that Heather was just a surrogate for Jess? And Jess is the one that actually dies?
Let’s say that Jess actually dies in the storm, or is close to death. And the rest of the movie is her just working out her death. Putting the missing pieces to rest. The flaw here? Um, yeah, she never does work through the flaws of her life. She never does lay down the past, and come to peace with anything at all. So how can that be what it’s about. Stay, and Jacob’s Ladder, show very clearly the protagonist coming to peace with their life and their death. Nothing like that happens here.
Theory #3 – The Sisyphean Gambit
Look. It’s really really rare that philosophical details are tossed into a movie for zero reason. I believe this even more than I do believe that superfluous characters aren’t introduced into a movie. So, what kind of philosophical mumbo-jumbo did the screenplay writer throw at us? Well, remember when our favorite cast walk onto the boat and begin discussing the name of the boat, The Aeolus? Well, Aeolus’ son is the one and only Sisyphus. Who is Sisyphus? A knave, and swindler, that lived his life cheating everyone he ran across. (There are like a billion accounts explaining exactly how) but eventually Sisyphus is cursed to live a life of rolling a boulder up a mountain only to watch it roll back down again. And to do it again. (It is fairly annoying that the only philosophy that most screenwriters use has something to do with Sisyphus.)
Sisyphus is famous simply because it is a simple metaphor for one worldview of how the world might work. Pointless toiling, over and over again. And then eventual – if you are lucky – death. But what does Sisyphus have to do with this movie? What if the author was just making a comment about life. It’s horribleness? Maybe it’s just a commentary on the pointlessness of life? All of us are forced to toil at the wheel and one day we’ll die? Maybe, but seems to be lacking something.
Theory #4 – Sisyphean Punishment
But what if, we were close… but not quite there with theory 3? What if, like Sisyphus, Jess is cursed for something horrible? What if she was forced to toil like Sisyphus for all time? To constantly struggle to get out of the loop and perpetually fail, only to watch the boulder roll back to the bottom of the ocean all over again? But Jess is lovely. She’s perfect. But, we know that she isn’t. Like, obviously not perfect at all. Anything but. Right? I mean, you could list example after example without breaking a sweat. I mean, all her alternative reality selves that are killing everyone? Yeah, that? Sure, our Jess is a good Jess. Right? Or maybe not.
One of the things that just kept coming back to me was how many metaphors there were for her life. The room number with the sign, “Go to the Theater”, was the same number as her address, 237. Coincidence? Nope. And what about the clocks? Were they all broken at the same time coincidentally? Or was 8:17 an important moment in the life of Jess? Hrmm. Maybe? At the beginning, we knew that Greg left her a sticky saying to come to the harbor at 8:30. So what happened at 8:17?
The only time we are shown what happens at 8:17 is at the end of the movie, when we see “evil Jess” or JessN beating Tommy and treating him horribly. This Jess is mired in the chaos of life and taking care of an autistic son alone. She believes she deserves a day off. She is myopicly focusing on her own selfish needs and desires. (Granted, she doesn’t have an easy life, but really? Beating an autistic child?) And 8:17 is when she takes the boy and drives away… straight into an oncoming truck. Could it be that real Jess is actually JessN? could it be that our Jess1 is actually just a made up fiction?
Yeah, I personally think that JessN killed Tommy, and herself, in a car accident. And it was this moment that spawned the endless looping. It was this unforgivable selfishness that doomed her to a life of constantly searching for a way off of the Aeolus. It was this sin that the gods punished her indefinitely for.
I don’t know, what do you think of this awesome movie? I only wish I had seen it when it first came out. Let me know which theory of yours or mine is your favorite. And always, feel free to point on the million things I missed in this way too long movie review! hahah. Can’t wait to hear your theories.